Damon Allen waited patiently outside the visitor locker room underneath the stands at BMO Field.
The Hall of Famer was there to see the Riders quarterback who had been called from the bench and pulled off a remarkable comeback.
Years before when Brandon Bridge was a youngster, he won a raffle at Square One mall in Mississauga. The prize: a signed ball and picture with Allen. Suzanne, Bridge’s mom, took him to get what her son won and invited Allen over for dinner. The two quarterbacks spent time going over defences and forming a bond that would see Allen give him tickets to any Argos game he wanted to attend.
“I’ve known Brandon since he was a kid. To see him develop where he is today – he played outstanding,” Allen said after watching Bridge throw for 292 yards and three touchdowns in the 27-24 win over Toronto. “It grows the confidence level.”
The relationship has meant a lot to Bridge as well.
“I’ve known Damon Allen for a long time – he’s always been a great mentor for me,” Bridge said.
Bridge is currently behind Kevin Glenn with Saskatchewan. At the beginning of Allen’s 23-year CFL career, he was a backup for the Eskimos.
“Coming into the game in very difficult situations and challenges, when I was with Edmonton, they prepared me. I was molded, prepared as a young quarterback,” Allen said. “At one point we had Matt Dunigan, myself, and Tracy Ham who was holding the clipboard and we’re all Hall of Famers.”
Glenn – 38-years-old with 17 years of CFL experience – provides a veteran presence for Bridge to learn from.
“People have to play the reliever role, obviously Damon Allen had to play that at one point in time in his career and obviously you see what he’s done. He always tells me be patient, learn from a legend – KG is a future Hall of Famer – and every time you get that opportunity make sure that you make the best of it.”
That’s what Bridge has done each time he’s seen extended action in 2017. Starting for an injured Glenn in Week 13 against Hamilton he threw for 231 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-19 Riders win. With Glenn struggling in the first quarter at BMO Field in Week 16, Bridge entered and led a comeback victory from 13 points down.
“Ever since he was a kid, growing up to high school and college, every single level of football I helped him understand the position. I knew the passion and his desire. That’s why I came down to see him – you see your work on the field,” Allen said.
The four-time Grey Cup champion talks to Bridge more than any other quarterback.
“We have many conversations, even during the time he was with Montreal, trying to understand what to do and handling the situation,” Allen said. “Because all the level of experience and information that I have and learned, it would be a shame for me just to hoard it, so I share and give it all out.”