Larry Allen shouldn't stand in line

Larry Allen is the best offensive lineman to ever play for the Dallas Cowboys.

Please don't turn that into a slight against Rayfield Wright, the former tackle who's already in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, because it's certainly not intended to be one.

It's no different than saying Michael Irvin is the best receiver to ever play for the Cowboys. Or Roger Staubach is the best quarterback to ever play for the Cowboys.

We all know Bob Hayes was a great player, a man who literally changed the game and is worthy of his bronze bust. And we certainly all know Troy Aikman was among the best to ever play and that his stats would've been much gaudier if he hadn't spent much of his career handing the ball to Emmitt Smith.

Wright, as agile a lineman as the game has ever seen, earned every accolade he has received, including a long-overdue invitation to join the best of the best.

Somehow, it took more than 20 years after his career ended for Wright to join the small fraternity of players in the Hall of Fame.

It shouldn't take Allen that long.

You have every right to be shocked if Allen's name doesn't get announced Saturday for induction into the Hall of Fame.

Careers rarely have the quality and length that Allen's did, especially when you consider he came from tiny Sonoma State by way of someplace called Butte Junior College.

He was the 46th player overall and ninth offensive linemen taken in the 1994 draft.

Seriously, players such as Georgia's Bernard Williams (14th overall to Philadelphia) and Auburn's Wayne Gandy (15th to Rams) went ahead of him in the first round.

And five other linemen were taken ahead of him in the second round before the Cowboys selected scout Tom Ciskowski's greatest find.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Allen played in 11 Pro Bowls -- 10 in Dallas and one with the San Francisco 49ers -- in 14 seasons. Only Mr. Cowboy, Bob Lilly, played in more Pro Bowls for the Cowboys.

He was selected All-Pro every season from 1995-2001. That means he was considered the best at his position for seven consecutive years, which is mind-blowing when you consider the average NFL career lasts 3.2 years, according to the NFLPA.

And how about this?

He's one of only three players -- Willie Roaf and Warren Sapp are the others -- to be placed on two All-Decade teams. He's a member of the All-Decade team for the 1990s and the 2000s.

Roaf is already in the Hall of Fame. Allen and Sapp should join him Saturday.

Allen dominated with an amazing blend of quickness, power, agility and brute strength, which is why he started for the Cowboys at every position on the offensive line except center.

During one season under Barry Switzer, the Cowboys used Allen as a nickel tackle. That's right, the Cowboys moved him from guard to tackle on obvious passing situations on third down.

Let that marinate.

"He's the only lineman I've ever seen block people off the screen, when we're watching film," Aikman once told me. "You see it in high school and college, but you never see it in the NFL. Larry does it all of the time."

For an offensive lineman, a position usually grounded in anonymity, Allen continually found the spotlight. He can thank former NFL commentator John Madden for that.

After all, Madden spent a considerable amount of time praising Allen's ability to obliterate defensive linemen and create holes for Smith. And who can forget his 1994 dash to catch New Orleans linebacker Darion Connor and prevent him from returning an interception for a touchdown?

If you don't believe it, you can easily find the clip on YouTube and see the 325-pound Allen, who was standing still when the interception occurred, reel in the 250-pound linebackers.

Normal players just don't do that. Then again, Allen wasn't normal.

He was always among the best, which is why he's set to take his rightful place among the game's greats.

And if for some reason it doesn't happen Saturday, it won't be long until he's the 12th Cowboys' player in the Hall of Fame.