Aug. 27, 2002
By Jay Glazer
SportsLine.com Senior Writer
As the preseason heads for the home stretch, season preview guides are multiplying on newsstands across the country. The glossies that grace these mags and newspaper pullouts will shine with stars du jour like Marshall Faulk, Brett Favre, Kurt Warner and Peyton Manning. The Ray Lewises and Michael Strahans are photographed in formidable poses.
But none of these publications will dare put the NFL's most dominating player on its cover. The man who causes more weekly destruction than any of the aforementioned superstars will again be overlooked.
The true story of football is not about dazzling statistics and marketable marauders. It's about pain, violence and the bloody fistfights in the trenches.
Nobody is more destructive than the Cowboys' massive offensive lineman Larry Allen.
He's never found in fantasy football guides and rarely discussed in NFL chat rooms. He certainly won't be a cover boy for People's sexiest athletes or the cover story previewing the league's superstars.
But in the reality that comes calling on Sunday afternoons, Allen could be considered the NFL's top player. He is certainly the most dominating.
I know, I know ... Larry Allen?
"No doubt, Larry is the most dominating guy in the league," said former teammate and future Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders. "It may not even be close."
Though much of the attention heading into this season will focus on the Faulks, Warners and Mannings, Allen is the choice for the league's most dominant player, position-by-position. Don't just take our word for it.
"We call him the legalized killer," Strahan said of the man he also calls the best blocker he has seen. "He doesn't just block people, he hurts people. He is such a force that you really don't see anywhere else. He's probably the only guy who you watch on film who makes you cringe. He does something every week where you actually feel bad for the people who are playing him."
It's not a difficult assessment to agree with, provided you've tasted the blood of these fights before.
"Larry Allen has the potential to embarrass more players than anybody else in the league on any given week," said former Pro Bowl offensive lineman and current CBS Sports analyst Randy Cross. "Marshall Faulk can put a move on a couple guys in a game and make them look bad. Kurt Warner can beat a corner or safety on a deep pass for a touchdown and make that guy look bad. But Larry has the force to humiliate groups of people and he does it on a regular basis."
One of the factors in choosing him the league's best pound-for-pound player is how much more he dominates his slot than other stars at their respective positions.
But Allen is in a class by himself. The No. 2 guard, Pittsburgh's Alan Faneca, is a terrific player, but the difference between the two is vast.
The top tackle, Jon Ogden, is tremendous, but he has been dominating at pretty much one slot. Allen's versatility is another factor that separates him from the pack.
Consider this: Allen has been selected to the All-Pro Team in each of the past seven seasons -- at three different positions. He has also been voted into the Pro Bowl eight times at four different slots.
* He began his Pro Bowl binge at right tackle in 1994.
* He then moved his path of destruction inside to right guard from '95 to the final three games of the 1997 season.
* Over the next 19 regular-season games, he humiliated right defensive ends at the left tackle slot. In fact, there was a four-game stretch in which he faced four of the league's top pass rushers. Total sacks he allowed: zippo. Big fat 0.
* In 1999, Allen was again moved, this time to the left guard slot where he was able to feast on an entirely new group of victims.
"The fact that he excelled at each of those positions should surprise absolutely nobody," says Cross, himself a multiposition Pro Bowl lineman. "I don't think there's a guy who has dominated the way he does since probably (Hall of Fame tackle) John Hannah."
He brings an element that most others lack: the ability to strike fear. Allen is what Mike Tyson was in the '80s. Opponents quiver at the scale.
"Basically I try to go out there and punk them, make them quit," Allen said of his Sunday routine. "It's either him or me and it's not going to be me."
He brings fear to Sunday. His Sunday Sabbath does not bring rest for the body, or refreshment for the soul, but it does elicit prayer as in, 'Lord, please don't let me get hurt by this beast today.'
"Oh, it definitely happens; guys will look to find a way out when they have to play him," Strahan said. "The saddest thing is how many players will watch him on film during the week and then, as the game gets closer, they pull up with some mysterious injury or flu or something. We call that catching 'Allen-itis.'"
It happens more than people know.
"It's so bad that it's caused some guys to actually get crafty," Sanders said. "Guys aren't going down anymore with an ankle or hamstring on Wednesday. Now guys look ahead on the schedule and make sure they go down with an injury in the third or fourth quarter of the game before they play Dallas.
"I'm not fooling. If you take a look at all the "injuries" some linemen have had over the years, it's amazing how devastating the Larry Allen syndrome can be."
One former player relayed this story:
A few years back, his teammates insisted on Wednesday that their starting defensive tackle would not play that Sunday vs. Dallas. The cause? Allen-itis. After a day of watching Allen on film actually hurt a variety of linemen, his teammates knew the DT was not going to want any part of Allen's destruction.
Sure enough, game day found the DT complaining of flu-like symptoms.
"Yeah, I've seen that a lot," said Allen, who fought his way off the mean streets of Compton, Calif. "Sometimes you can also tell in the first series that they aren't all there. You can look in their eyes, and if they don't look back at you, you got them."
Allen's tenacity and strength are his best traits. Last year, he was filmed bench-pressing a stunning 700 pounds, easily making him the league's strongest Pro Bowl player.
"Sometimes I get too aggressive, and I'll get out of balance if I'm trying to kill a guy," he says. "If I'm playing a guy and he tries to muscle me, it's just not going to happen."
While others can also dominate with strength, they don't combine this brute force with the nastiest on-field demeanor in the league.
"When I'm pulling around the end and see my guy, I'm just thinking I want to mess him up," Allen says in between quick chuckles. "Some turn around, some try to avoid me, some just go down. My dominance is my strength."
He isn't a cover boy. But he has a better claim to fame -- when Larry Allen rolls your way, boy, you better run for cover.
Anybody got a problem with our choice? Yeah, didn't think so.