When Keenan Allen was a 12-year-old in Greensboro, N.C., he was a guard on the local YMCA basketball court and a running back on the football field.
A growth spurt changed both positions.
At 6-foot-3 and 206 pounds, Allen might be the top wide receiver in the NFL draft, albeit one whom scouts and evaluators haven't seen in action since Oct. 27.
With 1:18 to play and Cal trailing Utah by 22 points, Allen jogged onto the field to recover an onside kick for the Bears. Not only did the attempt fail, the star wideout suffered a strained posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. He missed the final three games of the season, his predraft workouts at the NFL combine and Cal's pro day.
Allen is finally scheduled to run today in his native Greensboro, 16 days before he's expected to be drafted in the first round. All 32 teams are expected to attend.
Allen said he probably was 85 percent recovered from his injury, which he "tweaked" before the February scouting combine, but that he'd be back at full strength in a few weeks.
"I'll just let it all happen," Allen said of the situation. "I'm not a big guy on stressing."
Allen has been likened to Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, and he said he tries to emulate new 49ers wideout Anquan Boldin.
Neither comparison is a stretch, says David Amerson. The North Carolina State cornerback has been training with - and often against - Allen for the past few months at XPE Academy in Boca Raton, Fla. Amerson also dueled with Allen on the basketball court when they were grade schoolers in Greensboro.
Amerson, according to Allen, stood out back then because he could dunk when he was 14. Those hops - as well as his 6-3 height - meant that few teams were able to throw over the top of Amerson in recent years. He made 18 interceptions in the last two seasons, including an Atlantic Coast Conference-record 13 in 2011.
Amerson remembers Allen quickly growing into his body and becoming a difficult matchup on the court at the Bryan Family YMCA in the heart of Greensboro.
"I remember him being kind of a tall guy, and he always had big legs," Amerson said. "I always thought he was going to be a basketball player. He saw himself as a shooter back then."
The shooter eventually turned into an excellent receiver in high school and at Cal. In three seasons, Allen used his big body to shield defenders and became the Bears' all-time reception leader with 205 for 2,570 yards and 17 touchdowns on some middling squads.
Allen said he has been honing those skills in recent months even when his knee injury has prevented him from running routes.
One of his trainers is former Minnesota Vikings receiver Cris Carter, who was famous for his quick hands and for making catches in tight spots.
The two have worked on everything from sideline catches to snagging tennis balls - over and over - to build hand-eye coordination. Allen said Carter even has taught him finger stretches designed to improve elasticity in his hands.
Does that work?
"Absolutely," Allen said. "I'm more flexible now. Just bringing in the ball - it's a lot easier for me now."