Former Texas A&M defensive back Dennis Allen marveled at the program's facilities in his first return trip to Aggieland in a decade.
"I told everybody coming in when I was here we were still underneath the stadium," said Allen, now the head coach of the Oakland Raiders, who attended A&M's pro day Friday. "We had to go through all the pigeon poop to get to the locker room."
Allen did recognize Kyle Field as he drove into town from Houston -- but not as easily as when he played there from 1992-95.
"It's almost hard to see with all the other construction going on around here," Allen said. "I certainly don't recognize the athletic facilities."
Allen brought defensive line coach Terrell Williams and assistant head coach/offensive line coach Tony Sparano with him from his staff. They toured some of the facilities while they met with some Aggie players. The Raiders have the third pick in the upcoming NFL draft.
Allen, the youngest current NFL head coach, said he hadn't been on campus since Ty Warren, Sammy Davis and Terrence Kiel "were coming out." Allen called it great to renew friendships with people in the program who were here when he played.
"I take a lot of pride in Texas A&M," Allen said. "I still have a lot of connections to the school and the people here."
Allen is the son of Grady Allen, a former A&M linebacker who played for the Atlanta Falcons from 1968-72. Grady Allen, who won the Aggie Heart award, died of cardiac arrest in early December at the age of 66.
Dennis Allen also has his name etched in A&M folklore after an interception in an 18-9 victory over Texas in 1993. The Longhorns, trailing 15-9 with six minutes left, faced fourth-and-1 at the A&M 2-yard line. UT quarterback Shea Morenz rolled right and was pressured by Steve Solari and Sam Adams as he threw toward tight end Steve Bradley.
"We were in a man-to-man coverage," Allen said at the time. "My back blocked, so I was able to get free, and they threw it right to me."
Allen was in the game because defensive coordinator Bob Davie expected a pass. Allen didn't see a lot of playing time that season because he backed up Ray Mickens and Aaron Glenn, and he was labeled a most unlikely hero by the media that day. Allen's play helped A&M win its third straight Southwest Conference championship and a record 22nd straight SWC victory for the Aggies.
Allen, who started his last 21 games at A&M, said it was strange not having the Aggies and Longhorns playing last season but liked the move to the Southeastern Conference.
"They've shown they can compete in that league," Allen said. "I think that was one of the questions a lot of people had. They answered a lot of questions."
Allen praised Sumlin and his staff.
"They've done a great job with what he did, moving into the SEC," Allen said. "I think he's done an outstanding job and I'm looking forward to him continuing to build the tradition here."
Allen has prospered as a coach in the NFL. He started with Atlanta in 2002 as a defensive assistant. He moved to New Orleans and served as an assistant from 2006-10, winning Super Bowl XLIV, and he was Denver's defensive coordinator in 2011 before Oakland hired him.
He started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at A&M under R.C. Slocum.
Allen wasn't able to catch up with his former coach, but said Slocum's induction into the College Football Hall of Fame was well deserved.
"He obviously did a great job here," Allen said. "I learned a lot from him, not only as a player but coaching football."
Allen said he has a slew of fond memories of his time here, "but obviously the play against Texas was a big play. But you know, when I really think about it, the best memories are the guys you played with."
Allen said that's why it was great to talk on Friday to Glenn, who is coaching with the N.Y. Jets and also attended A&M's pro day; Larry Jackson, who is in charge of A&M's weight room; and local business man Hunter Goodwin.
One facility change didn't meet Allen's approval: the end of Cain Hall.
"I'm looking for a meal," he said. "I'm wondering how they feed the guys here."