COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Toward the end of a training camp in August, applause from a corner of the field near the players' friends and family tent interrupted a lull at the end of practice.
Los Angeles Chargers receiver Keenan Allen and fiancé Ciandra Monique had just announced that they were expecting their third child, a boy. Allen did so by kicking a football filled with baby-blue dust that erupted into the air.
The couple already has two daughters, 3-year-old Kamari and 1-year-old Kaliyah. Allen, 26, joked that having the girls first has helped prepare him for his first boy, due in January.
"I'm definitely excited," Allen said about the new addition. "I think it's a little better to have the girls first, just having patience in dealing with the girls and how you discipline them.
"I wasn't in a house with girls growing up. It was all boys, so I know how to raise a boy, and I'm ready to raise a boy."
Cleat Heat: Baby Edition 💙 pic.twitter.com/8iOt8mOzxx— Los Angeles Chargers (@Chargers) September 21, 2018
Entering his sixth NFL season, Allen points to fatherhood as something that has made him a more mature and accountable player and has led to more success on the field.
The Cal product had his best season as a pro in 2017, playing a full 16 games for the first time in his NFL career and finishing with 102 catches for 1,393 receiving yards and six touchdowns.
For his efforts, Allen earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl and won the Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year, returning to the field after suffering an ACL knee injury that cut short his 2016 campaign.
Since the start of the 2017 season, Allen ranks fifth in the league in receiving yards (1,765), sixth in receptions (134) and second in receptions of 10 or more yards (85). Through five games this season, he has 32 catches for 372 yards and a touchdown.
"In different phases of their life, it's affected me in different ways," Rivers said when asked about the responsibility of raising a family. Rivers and wife Tiffany had their first child while still at NC State. "I think the ups and downs of the game allow for teachable moments, whereas they can see me actually deal with some adversity firsthand, like an interception for a touchdown to lose the game -- all of these moments over 15 years.
"Obviously, it helps you keep things in perspective. Whether it's a good game or a bad game, I pull into the driveway, and there's scooters and bikes everywhere, and I go, 'You know what? Things are going to be all right.'"
Gates knew early on that Allen had the talent to develop into a special player, but he needed to see the young receiver's commitment to being great through hard work and preparation. That has occurred over the past two years.
"I just remember when I first had my child, it forced me to grow up," Gates said. "Not to say that he wouldn't have -- who knows? But it almost forces your hand because you start understanding, as a man, you start doing the things that you need to do.
"I just remember we would do things in conditioning. And I would always jokingly tell him, 'Hey, I want to pass the torch, but you've got to work harder.' [laughs] It's just been amazing to see a guy who we all thought had the ability [to] grow say, 'I can be one of the best players on this team and in the league.'"
Allen said he has slowed down on going to the club and the casino as he has gotten older, taking up hobbies such as golf when he spends time away from home.
Allen's used to being around family and was surrounded by aunts, uncles and cousins in his hometown of Greensboro, North Carolina, where he grew up with older brothers Zach Maynard and Durel Lang.
"Family was big and has always been big," Allen said. "Cousins and aunts, we always lived in the same neighborhood. The whole family was probably five to 10 miles away from each other growing up, so I've kind of always been family-oriented and had a big supporting cast growing up."
Allen also is a self-taught musician who considered pursuing a music career. With his interest in music, it has become part of his daughters' daily life.
"They're big music fans and big Disney fans," Allen said of his daughters. "So they're singing, jumping and dancing all day."