ARLINGTON, Texas — Like Ole Miss Rebels offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil’s gas mask bong hit seen around the NFL world in 2016, Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen was left smelling something funny after offensive tweets from 2012 and 2013 hit the public eye.
Specifically, the scent of a rat.
After being selected by the Buffalo Bills with the seventh overall pick in Thursday’s NFL draft, Allen was contrite and embarrassed when meeting with the media. But he also alluded to feeling set up by someone other than himself when controversial tweets resurfaced unexpectedly the day before the first round of the draft.
“I think somebody knew what they were doing,” Allen said. “There were some tweets that were already deleted probably a few months [ago], if [not] a year ago. Somebody knew what they were doing. It’s out there. It’s my fault. I can’t blame anybody else. I own my own mistakes. Success is the best revenge.”
Interestingly, in a draft process that professes to hate distractions, Allen’s tweets apparently didn’t impact his draft process very much at all. At least, not enough to actually drop his stock meaningfully. When it was all over Thursday night, Allen’s tweets – which contained both racial and homophobic content – were little more than a speed bump. Allen remained comfortably inside his draft range, which was widely considered to be in the top 10-12 picks. That’s in stark contrast to Tunsil, who was expected to be a top-three pick in the 2016 draft, then saw his stock hammered by a video of him doing a bong hit in a gas mask just moments before the selections got underway.
But rather than face a precipitous slide, the big-armed Wyoming quarterback came off the draft board No. 7 overall to the Bills after spending part of the day doing damage control. After the pick, the Bills and Allen quickly started their “move on” campaign, with a multi-pronged message that will be carried back to Buffalo from Dallas. Something like: Allen was young and made a mistake. He explained himself to the Bills. The franchise couldn’t find anyone to suggest he had a character problem. And now he’ll move on to the business of becoming the team’s centerpiece.
“I was so emotional about it just because that’s not who I am as a person,” Allen said. “I don’t want my teammates or my coaching staff thinking that’s who I am. That was six years ago. I put it on my shoulders. It happened. I was young and dumb. I made a mistake. But I’ve moved on. I’ve learned from it. … Hopefully my coaching staff, my teammates [greet] me with welcoming arms. We’re going to go from there and I’m going to earn their respect every day.”
A handful of personnel sources told Yahoo Sports that Allen’s representatives reached out to them to explain the tweets, which happened when the quarterback was in high school. In those explanations, part of the blame was put on Allen’s musical taste and a phrase from the sitcom “Modern Family” – along with Allen simply being young, immature and dumb. Allen said the Bills were the only team to specifically ask to speak to him personally.
“They asked me before [the draft],” Allen said. “We had a sit-down talk over the phone. They just basically wanted explanations for everything and I gave them to them. I owned up to my mistakes.”
Whatever he said was apparently enough to satisfy the Bills, who told local reporters on Thursday that they did their own work and didn’t find a trend to suggest the tweets were a deeper character problem.
Now Allen settles into the hands of general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott – two former members of the Carolina Panthers who had a ringside seat for the development of Cam Newton. That’s an important reality, since Allen and Newton carry some athletic similarities, including size, athletic ability and strong arms. It’s also worth noting that Newton’s accuracy has been an off-and-on project for the Panthers, although his overall skills entering the league was considered once-in-a-decade.
Allen isn’t quite on that level, but his arm tops out on the league’s quarterback scale, and he has unique athleticism for his size. That arm strength will be a good fit for Buffalo’s often harsh conditions – not to mention a big frame that is often sought by cold-weather franchises.
But that fit and support by the Bills brain trust doesn’t mean the work is done for Allen. The quarterback will still have to face his new teammates with an explanation going beyond blaming the tweets on his choices of entertainment.
“I’m going to be myself,” Allen said. “I’m going to make sure that they know who I really am. There were no [ill] intentions with those tweets. What’s said is said. There’s no going back and changing it.
“I was a young kid. I’ve had a lot of experience the past day and the past three years – going to [junior college], going to a Division I school. I had a lot of teammates reach out to me and they said, ‘I don’t care what the tweets say. I know who you are. You’re my guy. None of that is ever going to change.’ ”
More NFL draft coverage from Yahoo Sports:
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• Giants take Barkley with No. 2 pick instead of Darnold
• Did Cardinals get NFL draft’s best QB with 10th pick?
• NFL draft grades 2018: The emoji edition