Larry Allen 'one of the best of all time'

IRVING, Texas -- Larry Allen has become something of a world traveler since playing his last snap in the NFL in 2007.

His world was consumed by football for 14 years, including 12 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, so he didn't have time to soak in other aspects of his life. Not too long after he retired, Allen went to Italy and France and was taken by the history that oozed from Rome and Paris.

Allen drew a parallel from his trips to see statues and ruins to Sunday's induction into the Cowboys' Ring of Honor.

"It'll be like that for me," Allen said.

That Allen will take his place alongside the greatest players in team history is not surprising. Not after 10 Pro Bowls. Only Bob Lilly played in more as a Cowboy. Not after six All-Pro honors. Not after he was named to the All-Decade teams in the 1990s and 2000s.

"If somebody said to God, 'What should all the guards look like?' " John Madden said, "then He would send Larry Allen down."

Madden, the Hall of Fame coach and longtime broadcaster, had an infatuation with Allen. During Madden's illustrious career a lot of his Sundays and Mondays were spent watching the Cowboys, which meant he spent a lot of time watching Allen.

How many times did Madden diagram an Emmitt Smith run and circle Allen and let out a "boom" or a "bam"?

"There are some times when you know that you are watching one of the best players ever," Madden said. "When I watched a player it wasn't just the game we'd have, but also tape and film leading up to those games. At first you'd watch him and say, 'This guy's pretty good,' and then he'd keep going and going and he was so strong and had such good balance. Then you'd realize what it was you were seeing -- and that was one of the best of all time."

Madden puts Allen in a category with Hall of Famers John Hannah, Tom Mack and Gene Upshaw.

Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said former coach Barry Switzer would often call Allen the team's best player, ahead of Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Smith, who now call the Pro Football Hall of Fame home.

Allen played with only a handful of today's Cowboys. Marcus Spears was a first-round pick in 2005 and had seen Allen on television before finally getting to go against him in practice.

"Felt like you were going against a brick wall," Spears said. "He was so good. He's the best offensive lineman to ever play, I think. I know that's saying a lot, but he went to the Pro Bowl at tackle and guard. Larry could do it all."

Allen has come around Valley Ranch more this year than any other time since his retirement. He has helped offensive line coach Hudson Houck tutor the offensive linemen with tips gathered through his career. Maybe one day he would like to get into coaching, but only after his son graduates from high school in three years.

Allen still works out but he's not throwing 700 pounds on the bench like he did in his prime. He misses the game.

"I miss the contact," he said.

Allen has never enjoyed the spotlight, so Sunday will be a little strange. He has yet to write a speech for the halftime ceremony but everybody knows he will be nervous.


"I don't have a helmet on, I guess," Allen said.

As Allen would stretch before games at Texas Stadium he would stare at the names in the Ring of Honor that read like a who's who of professional football: Lilly, Roger Staubach, Tom Landry, Tony Dorsett, Randy White, Mel Renfro, Lee Roy Jordan, Don Perkins, Don Meredith, Chuck Howley, Tex Schramm, Bob Hayes, Cliff Harris and Rayfield Wright.

On Sunday, he will wear the same blue sport coat that signifies the honor with them.

"I look up to all those guys," Allen said. "Charles [Haley] stayed after practice with me my rookie year. If I messed up in a game a couple of times, Troy would grab my facemask and say, 'We don't do that around here.' Everybody wanted to win. I didn't want to be that person that messed up. That's what they did for me."

And now his name will be along the Cowboys Stadium fa├žade forever, like those statues he saw in Paris and Rome.

Todd Archer covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.