ESPN is reporting that former Rome businessman Bryan Allen is the person who allegedly paid suspended University of Georgia Bulldogs running back Todd Gurley to autograph sports memorabilia, and that Allen has hired a high-profile Atlanta attorney to represent him.
Allen once owned a sports memorabilia store, “Players,” in Rome. The store closed within the past year.
On Thursday, UGA officials suspended Gurley indefinitely citing an investigation into whether or not he was paid to sign large quantities of jerseys, helmets, footballs and other memorabilia that is currently being sold on eBay and other retail outlets.
Gurley, a leading Heisman Trophy candidate, didn’t travel with the No. 13 Bulldogs on Friday as they flew to Columbia, Missouri, for Saturday’s game against the No. 23 Tigers.
According to ESPN, on Sept. 30, Allen, whose last known address was in Villa Rica, sent an email to ESPN and several other media outlets, in which he claimed to possess “video of Todd Gurley doing a private autograph signing from last [March].”
Allen included his name in the email and a cellphone number that was recently issued to him.
“He has been paid thousands of dollars for his stuff over the last 18 months,” Allen wrote in the email. “I personally paid him for the signing on the video. I have bought and sold game used equipment from him.”
In the email, Allen claimed he didn’t want to be compensated for releasing the video or photos of Gurley signing memorabilia. A photo Allen attached to the Sept. 30 email shows an African-American male, who closely resembles Gurley, signing a mini-UGA helmet inside a car. The man is shown autographing the helmet with his left hand; Gurley is left-handed.
Allen wrote in the email that he recently sold the mini-helmet on his eBay store and that the video didn’t “show the money exchange.”
“All I ask for is privacy,” Allen wrote. “I live [in] Georgia and would be crucified if my name was released.”