Hanging out in Larry Allen's front yard
|Harry How/All Sport|
|Larry Allen was a mainstay on the Cowboys' offensive line from 1994-2005.|
With hardly any pomp and circumstance, one of the league's all-time greatest offensive lineman, Larry Allen, officially retired as a Dallas Cowboy on Friday. It's exactly how he wanted it.
At some point, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones will talk Allen into showing up for a formal ceremony, but he won't enjoy it. The painfully shy kid who grew up in the Compton section of Los Angeles would much rather us never hear from him again. In fact, if he even thinks about it at all, I bet he cringes at the thought of making a Hall of Fame speech in a few years.
Allen played for the Cowboys from 1994-2005, and he went to 10 consecutive Pro Bowls. During the first six or seven years of that run, he was the most dominating offensive lineman in football. He made at least one Pro Bowl as an offensive tackle, but he'll be remembered as a guard. I can't imagine what linebackers and safeties thought when they saw Allen pulling to block. His upper-body strength was the stuff of legend. Players used to gather to watch Allen lift more than 600 pounds on the bench press.
By the time I arrived on the Cowboys beat for the Dallas Morning News in 2003, Allen's career had begun to slip. He and new head coach Bill Parcells weren't on the same page, and Allen spent a good part of training camp on an exercise bike. I hounded him every single day while we walked off the field, and he eventually started opening up, which is to say he strung at least four or five words together.
Following the 2003 season, Allen started skipping Parcells' "voluntary" conditioning program, working out at a local YMCA instead. Since he wasn't easy to reach by phone, my editors thought it might be a good idea to send me over to his home in Coppell.
I figured that showing up unannounced at Allen's house would probably ensure that he'd never talk to me again -- and that's pretty much what happened. As I approached Allen's appropriately enormous front door, I was more focused on my exit strategy than what I was actually going to say.
After a couple of feeble knocks, Allen's wife opened the door. I apologized profusely for showing up unannounced, but told her how important it was that I talk to Larry.
"A reporter's at my house?" she said at least three times.
After telling me Larry wasn't home, she referred me to his agent Marvin Demoff, who returns calls at least once every four or five years. I apologized again and headed home.
My friends in the business have told me that I should've simply told my editors that no one was home and never knocked on the door. But that strategy didn't occur to me at the time.
My only connection to Allen now is his offensive line coach in Dallas and San Francisco, George Warhop. George did an unbelievable job of helping Allen through some tough times late in his career, and from what I'm told, Allen is happier than he's ever been.