Gruesome injury can't dampen friendship between Steelers safeties Allen, Golden
Their friendship has intertwined as much as their football careers.
And for one late-night moment in August, Malik Golden and Marcus Allen literally crossed paths again. But this time, their physical interaction had catastrophic results for Golden’s right knee.
Former Penn State teammates who started next to each other in college and are both safeties with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Allen and Golden converged in a hustling attempt to make a play during the final quarter of the final game of the preseason.
Golden chased Carolina’s Kyle Allen from the outside as the scrambling quarterback took off around the left end.
Marcus Allen came flying over from the middle of the field.
Kyle Allen went down — the former Nittany Lions shared the tackle — but so did Golden. His right knee bent in a frightening direction after Marcus Allen slammed into it.
Golden’s lower leg dangled gruesomely as he grabbed it, and he was in severe pain.
Marcus Allen felt an anguish that seemed even worse. He grabbed both sides of his facemask in disbelief and grief, then he took his helmet off and prayed. Golden was loaded onto a motorized cart minutes later. Allen approached and gave a heartfelt hug, his head buried into Golden’s chest.
“Mentally, it messed with me,” Allen said. “Because that’s my boy.”
“It was rough on him,” said Golden. “I know he felt it.”
So when Golden finally began walking without crutches earlier this month, Allen was just as happy as his injured friend.
“He’s on his way back, and I know he’ll get back,” Allen said. “But definitely, if I ever get to play this year, this season will definitely be for Malik. We go way back. We have so much history that’s built up so much friendship.”
Golden was a redshirt sophomore when Allen arrived at Penn State in 2014.
“I would ask him for advice, because he was like a big brother to me,” Allen said. “And when I first got (to the Steelers as a fifth-round pick), it felt like a repeat: asking questions, always being in his ear. To still have him around is just a blessing.”
Golden returned to the Steelers in January after he made enough of an impression during his rookie training camp. That season, too, ended with an injury in the preseason finale against Carolina (a groin).
So in this camp he was in the running for the secondary’s final roster spot, and it’s possible Allen, in a cruel irony, took Golden’s job when he collided with his knee.
“You never know what happens until (roster) decisions are made. That’s the fun part, the surprise,” Golden said.
“But I thought I was doing (well). … Special teams-wise and ‘D,’ I was doing what I was asked.”
Golden landed on injured reserve and has been a regular around UPMC Rooney Sports Complex and at practice, appearing popular among his teammates, frequently joking with them even when they’ve fired back with good-natured shots about his crutches.
“They keep me in check,” Golden said. “If I wasn’t here, I don’t know how I would be doing.”
Golden admits he was down during the first week after his injury and resulting surgery to repair torn ligaments.
“But I’ve got good teammates, good support system, family, friends,” he said, “so they helped me get past that.”
Now that he’s off crutches, Golden aims to be more involved in team meetings and prep.
He’s learning more about the NFL, and he vows to be ready for 2019 organized team activities in the spring.
“If we attack this (rehab) the right way,” he said.
Until then, he vows to assist his fellow Steelers defensive backs, including a rookie he has known for years.
“Him getting hurt,” said Allen, who has yet to be in uniform for a game this season, “that made me want to go harder for him in practice, in training and in the games if I get to play.
“This is our livelihood. This is our career. This is how we eat and feed our families. So to see somebody go down for the whole season, especially if he’s your (friend), it hurts.”
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.