Pro Football Hall of Famer Larry Allen — rare combination of size, strength, speed — dead at 52

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The professional football world today is mourning the unexpected death of former Dallas Cowboys offensive linemanRecognized as one of the strongest players in NFL history and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013, Allen died June 2, 2024, while vacationing with his family, according to a statement from the Cowboys. He was 52.“The National Football League is filled with gifted athletes, but only a rare few have combined the size, brute strength, speed and agility of Larry Allen. What he could do as an offensive lineman often defied logic and comprehension,” said Hall of Fame President Jim Porter. “In a six-season span, he was named All-Pro every year, and one of those seasons came when the Cowboys needed him to step in at tackle.“He could literally beat the will out of his opponents, with many quitting mid-game or not dressing at all rather than face him, but that was only on the field. Off it, he was a quiet, gentle giant.”Larry Christopher Allen was born to Larry Sr. and Vera Allen on Nov. 27,1971, in Los Angeles. In an effort to provided improved opportunities for success, Vera moved Larry away from Compton, Calif., to a variety of communities resulting in Larry attending four high schools prior to attending Vintage High School in Napa, Calif., his senior year.Allen’s initial entry into organized football began during his junior year of high school, leading to an opportunity to play at Butte Junior College for coach Craig Rigsbee.“He was so raw, but he had natural strength,” Rigsbee told the media in advance of Allen’s enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Allen had demonstrated his natural strength to Rigsbee when the youthful lineman, 17 years old at the time, bench-pressed 405 pounds five times during a weight training session.During his two seasons at Butte, Allen was named to the all-conference and all-state teams. Following his sophomore season, he was recognized as an All-American.After two years of junior college competition at Butte, Allen found his way to a Division II football program at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, Calif., under coach Frank Scalercio.Playing for the Cossacks (now Seawolves), Allen allowed a single sack in two seasons and was a two-time All-American. Additionally, he was named Northern California Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year — a rare feat for a lineman.Initially overlooked for the East-West Shrine Game, Scalercio convinced bowl representatives to watch Allen play. The head coach recalled the experience during an interview in 2013.“There were these two big defensive linemen for the other team,” Scalercio explained. “They took out our tight end, then pointed at Larry and said, ‘You’re next.’“Larry hit the one guy so hard in the chest, the guy was out cold,” Scalercio continued. “They brought out the ambulance and strapped him down; they weren’t sure how he was. The East-West people said, ‘I think we can find a spot for him in the game.’ ”The Division II Football Hall of Fame found a spot for Allen in 2011. He had been named to the Sonoma State University Athletics Hall of Fame in 2001.The Dallas Cowboys also considered a place for Allen, selecting him in the second round (46th over pick) of the 1994 NFL Draft. Nine offensive linemen were selected prior to the future Hall of Famer’s selection.“We knew he had great talent,” proclaimed then-Cowboys offensive line coach Hudson Houck. “There was no question about that. But prior to the draft, some staff members were looking at defensive players.“I stood up and said, ‘There is a guy who can certainly play,’” Houck declared. “Jerry (Jones, the Cowboys’ owner) saw the film and said, ‘Whoa!’”Barry Switzer, head coach of the Cowboys when Allen arrived, observed, “He had talent. He was not a project. Offensive linemen Nate Newton, Mark Tuinei, they realized what a stud he was. He was accepted right away.”While recounting in 1993 his arrival in Dallas, Allen appreciated the Cowboys’ successful offensive line saying, “To have the best players at every position, especially on the O-line, my first year I just sat back and watched and learned. Once I got in the game, I wanted to stay in. I just did my best.”Allen started, as either a guard or tackle, in 10 games his rookie season, tying the team record for the most starts on the offensive line by a rookie. During his 12 seasons with the Cowboys, Allen played every line position except center.His strength – Allen once bench pressed over 700 pounds – and tenacity were noted by teammates and foes alike.“Larry had a job to do, and his job was to go through you,” Hall of Famer John Randle told NFL Films. “When a man can bench 692 pounds, that man can launch you. It’s like going against a bear.”“His work ethic was phenomenal,” Houck said. “Not only as a player, as a teammate. Larry, he brought some of the other guys along.”Instilling doubt, or fear, in his opponents was also part of Allen’s on-field mission.“My objective is to make the other guy quit,” Allen told the Dallas Morning News in 1996. “You can tell when it’s starting to happen because he stops rushing as hard and when you run-block he doesn’t resist as much.”In 2013, Cowboys’ players and staff mentioned opposing players contracting “Larry Allen flu” prior to having to face Allen on game day. Thus providing those players “an escape from the pain they would incur having suited up.”Former Dallas head coach Chan Gailey surmised, “He wants to make the other guy look bad. When the game is over, he wants the guy to know he has been whipped.”Former New York Giants defensive lineman Justin Tuck likened Allen to a “brick wall” in describing to ESPN’s Dan Le Batard the strongest opponent he faced. Tuck shared the story of Allen signaling the direction of an offensive play by making the sound of a train whistle.“Young Larry Allen would go up to the line of scrimmage and go ‘woo, woo,’ and literally let the D-tackle know that EMMITT SMITH and Moose Johnson are going to be running through this hole right here, and there’s nothing you can do about it.“That’s a special breed,” Tuck concluded.After his 12 seasons in Dallas, which included a Super Bowl XXX championship against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Allen completed his NFL career with a pair of seasons as a San Francisco 49er.Allen is recognized as a member of offensive lines that led the way for Cowboys and 49ers single-season rushing records. Emmitt Smith accomplished the feat in 1996, and Frank Gore set the San Francisco mark in 2006.He logged 11 Pro Bowl selections throughout his career, six consecutive All-Pro nods from the Associated Press and first-team All-NFC recognition six times.The NFL’s All-Decade Teams of the 1990s and 2000s include Allen on their rosters. He is a member of the NFL 100 All-Time Team as a guard.Prior to Allen’s enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013, Hall of Fame coach and legendary football analyst JOHN MADDEN told the Dallas Morning News, “If you were to have a team and you were going to choose up sides and you weren’t sure exactly what the game was or the rules were – boxing or wrestling or football – you’d choose Larry Allen. I’d take Larry Allen on my side. I don’t think anyone wanted to go against him.”Allen’s legacy will be preserved forever in Canton, Ohio.

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