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Sen. George Allen shares the emotions of his father's induction into the Hall of Fame.
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Friday, August 2, 2002
Allen a teacher, a winner
By Brandon M. Bickerstaff

If football was George Allen's life, winning was his sustenance.

"Every time you lose, you die inside," Allen once said, "and every time you win, you're reborn."

Allen, who died of pneumonia in 1990 at the age of 72, won enough to make one think he might live forever. He's the only NFL coach with 10 or more years experience never to have a losing season, finishing with a 116-47-5 record in 12 seasons with the L.A. Rams and Washington Redskins. Years later, he even made a winner out of Long Beach State, leading the perennial loser to a winning season in 1990.

On Saturday, with his posthumous induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Allen's legacy is sure to live on forever.

"My dad would be so moved and honored by (being inducted to the Hall of Fame)," said Jennifer Allen, author of "The Fifth Quarter," a book detailing her life growing up as Allen's only daughter. "He dedicated his life to football. This would have given him a great sense of accomplishment."

An innovator both on and off the sidelines, Allen pioneered the use of the "nickel" package, the blitz and zone coverage, while battling criticism for trading draft picks in favor of veterans. It all added up to success at each stop -- with the Rams from 1966-70 and the Redskins from 1971-77. Coach of the Year in 1967 and 1971, Allen's Rams reached the conference finals twice, while his Redskins' teams made the postseason five times, including a loss to the undefeated Miami Dolphins in the 1972 Super Bowl.

But along with his accomplishments on the field, Allen also left an impression off the field on those who played for him, including Hall of Fame defensive end Deacon Jones.

"Personally, he taught me so much," said Jones who played for Allen as part of the "Fearsome Foursome" with the Rams from 1961-72, and as part of the "Over the Hill Gang" with the Redskins in 1974. "I'm from the segregation period, and here I had met a man of the white race and my career and trust were placed in his hands.

"The first meeting I had with him when he first came to (the Rams) in '66, I saw something in him that I knew I needed in order to take my game to the next level. I thank him as much as I would thank my father for what he did for me personally and my career."

When Jones was inducted to the Hall in 1980, he chose Allen to present him to the crowd at Canton. Jones was also a pallbearer at Allen's funeral. That's why the choice of Jones to present Allen at Saturday's ceremoney was a no-brainer for the Allen family.

"My dad would have chosen Deacon," said Jennifer Allen, whose 2-year-old son is named after the Hall of Fame player. "Deacon was, besides an amazing player, a great man. He and my father were more than friends. They were almost like brothers."

Jones welcomes the chance to speak for his former coach and friend.

"I am honored," Jones said. "There are a lot of people George Allen knew, and a lot who would want to fulfill this duty. I am very proud to be chosen by the Allen family. Our relationship was really special, both on and off the field."

A disciplinarian, Allen expected nothing less than perfection from his players. His rigorous practices and hitting drills were designed to make his teams the best-conditioned units in the NFL. What may have been a three-hour practice could last all night depending on how Allen's players performed.

"We had open-ended practices," Jones said. "Whatever was on the agenda, we would get it all done, no matter how long it took. If we went through practice and no one made a mistake, then we could have a regular three-hour practice. But if mistakes were made, we stayed out there on that field until we got it right."

Allen's penchant for trading draft picks for veterans earned his Redskins the "Over the Hill Gang" nickname. Allen drew criticism around the league, but Jones says there was a method to what seemed to be Allen's madness.

"When you looked at our playbook, and realized you had to memorize it in eight weeks, you knew there was no way a rookie could have made his team," Jones said. "You had to be someone who already had a great understanding of the game. You had to be a veteran to grasp everything."

For a man whose entire life focused on hard work, reaching the Hall of Fame is the ultimate reward.

"No one can deny that George Allen loved the game of football," Jennifer Allen said. "People may have criticized him for trading future draft picks or his conservative offense, but he loved the game. That's why this would mean so much to him."

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