2013 NFL Hall of Fame induction ceremony at 7 PM EST on ESPN2 or the NFL Network.
"Larry is one of the greatest players in Cowboys history, and arguably the very best guard to ever play the game. He was obviously a special talent, but the fierceness and tenacity that he brought to the field separated him from the rest of the pack. I have never been more proud of anyone who has reached the Pro Football Hall Fame. Larry Allen represents the best of the very best." -Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, upon learning of Allen's election to the 2013 Hall of Fame class.
Best lineman in Cowboys history? That case most certainly could be made. After a storied career, Larry Christopher Allen, Sr. becomes a member of the Professional Football Hall of Fame today, the 14th Dallas Cowboys player to do so. This was Allen's first year of eligibility.
It wouldn't be fair to his decade-plus of performance to describe it as just suiting up... Larry Allen went to battle for the Cowboys from 1994-2005. He owned the trenches while exemplifying everything that one associates with wearing a star. A man of few words, as a second-round draft pick out of Division II Sonoma State, he was elected to 10 Pro-Bowls while a member of the Cowboys, and was named First-Team All-Pro seven times. Allen was a key member of the 1995 championship team led by Barry Switzer.
‘LA' quickly became one of the leagues' premiere linemen, earning his first Pro Bowl and All-Pro nod in just his second season. His career was so accomplished, he is just one of three players in the history of the NFL to be named to two separate All-Decade teams.
What often times gets lost in Allen's career is that he was owner Jerry Jones' first "post-Jimmy" draft hit, and the only one for a while. The bond the two share most certainly goes beyond that, as Jones will be the one that presents Larry Allen in the ceremony. It should be noted that Allen came on board in Jerry's first foray into being a solo GM.
"He's been like a father figure to me," Allen said. "He's helped me on and off the field. He's a great person."
Allen was an extremely versatile player, lining up at both guard positions, as well as both tackle positions and earning All-Pro honors at three of them. In the specialization of today's NFL, it's hard to imagine a player that was primarily a guard be able to kick outside and not only be adequate, but be the best in the game. That was Larry Allen.
His strength was unworldly. Allen is on record for bench pressing 705 lbs and squatting over 900 lbs. If you find those numbers hard to fathom, you probably should.. but here's the video evidence.
The scary part is that for all of that power, Allen was still ridiculously athletic, and not just for a lineman. In this link, watch Allen chase down Darion Connor, a 4.63 linebacker who had the audacity to intercept a Troy Aikman pass. It was a play that will be remembered for decades, yet came in 73's rookie campaign.
The fact that Larry Allen was able to even make it to the NFL is as remarkable story as the one that tells the tale of his playing career. A product of Compton, California, Larry Allen grew up living the rough life that was immortalized by rap groups like NWA and rappers such as DJ Quik and MC Eiht. At the age of 10, Allen was involved in a fight where he was stabbed 12 times. That scar you see on his head that he requested be included in his Hall of Fame bust? Yup.
Allen had a penchant for getting into fights that followed him all the way through junior college. You'd have to imagine he did his fair share of instigating them, considering the mammoth size of the man and his intimidation factor.
Organized football didn't enter Allen's life until he was 15 years old. He attended four high schools in four years, and never actually graduated; earning his high school diploma outside of the school system before attending tiny Butte College in Oroville, CA. Butte boasts a current NFL star, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, among it's alum as well. While there, Allen was named both All-Conference and All-State and during his sophomore campaign earned JC All-American honors.
Allen's academic struggles kept him from transferring to a Division I school, so after sitting out a year, he enrolled in Sonoma State University, a DII school. Allen relinquished just one sack over his two years there and was invited to both the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl.
Current Cowboys scouting director Tom Ciskowski was a regional scout back in 1993, assigned to the West Coast. Ciskowski was scouting Portland State when he ran into on of their coaches, Tim Walsh. Walsh had moved up from being head coach at a small DII school named Sonoma State. He talked Allen up to Ciskowski who then studied the young man and suggested him to then-director of scouting, Larry Lacewell.
Ciskowski insisted that Allen was a better prospect than either of the two highly rated Pac-10 linemen he was assigned to, and history has proven that assessment justified. Nervous about him being from a small school Ciskowski recollected also being worried that Allen was such a quiet kid, he questioned whether he really loved football.
Allen probably wouldn't have dropped to the Cowboys if it wasn't for a rotator cuff injury that dropped his stock. How about that, an injury concern dropped a player into the Cowboys lap in the second round. He was the 9th offensive lineman selected in the 1994 draft. Dallas can only hope to strike 50% of that magic again with the 9th lineman selected in the 2013 draft, Travis Frederick.
Once a member of the Cowboys, Allen has never looked back; mostly because he rarely let a defensive lineman into the Cowboys backfield. It's a shame that Dallas' fortunes turned downhill soon after their third Super Bowl victory in four years. The second-half of Allen's career was spent protecting the myriad of post-Aikman signal callers that rarely steered the Cowboys ship through rough waters successfully.
He did it though, with dignity, honor and professionalism. When the time came for the Cowboys to move away from Larry Allen for what was perceived decline play and salary cap reasons in 2006, it was a tough day.
"This decision is a tough one for me personally," said Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones. "Larry has been the best in pro football for a long time. His ability and performance set a standard for excellence at his position in the NFL for many years, and we are grateful for his contributions to the Dallas Cowboys."
Of course, Allen would move onto the San Francisco 49ers and pave the way for Frank Gore for 11 games towards 1,695 yards. Allen would earn his 11th Pro Bowl that season. After another year by the Bay, Allen would finally walk away from the game in 2008, but not before signing a one-day contract so he could retire as a member of the Dallas Cowboys.
On November 6th, 2011, Allen would become the 20th member of the Dallas Cowboys to be inducted into the Ring of Honor. He's just the second offensive lineman included after fellow Hall of Famer, Rayfield Wright. Each of the two previous generations of Cowboys fans can battle it out over which stalwart holds the title for best lineman ever to don the Blue and Silver.
Cowboys fans that watched Larry Allen join the stage this past February when he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame couldn't help but reciprocate the ear-to-ear grin that Allen donned. For someone who rarely said a public word, watching the joy on his teary face brought back the ecstasy of rooting for this team's glory years. To know the road he traveled to get there, makes it even more fulfilling for those that cheered him on.
Now Allen cheers on his son, Larry Allen, Jr. who just happens to play guard for De La Salle High in Concord, CA. Junior is a three-star guard scheduled to graduate next summer. He's been offered a scholarship from Oregon State and has drawn interest from Stanford as well. The son has earned a path his father was never afforded.
Allen's tale is one that reminds us how unlikely it is that football will ever leave the landscape of America. There are few avenues that can transform a person from potential statistic to living legend the way professional sports can. For those of us that root for the Cowboys, we are forever grateful that it did just that for Larry Christopher Allen, 2013 Hall of Fame inductee.