(Editor’s Note: As former Cowboys’ Pro Bowl lineman Larry Allen approaches this weekend’s Pro Football Hall of Fame announcement, where it’s expected “LA” will get the prestigious honor in his first year of eligibility, the staff at DallasCowboys.com will reflect on his career all week. Today, football analyst and former Cowboys scout Bryan Broaddus caught up with scouting director Tom Ciskowski, who recalled his first visit with Larry Allen.)
The dream for every scout that travels on the road is to find that one player that has that type of career that is worthy of the Hall of Fame. Before Tom Ciskowski was the assistant director of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys, he was a scout on the West Coast. His territory was the largest of all the scouting regions which meant that not all of his days were at USC looking at players. There were plenty of days spent at schools with the football budget less than what the Trojans spend on uniforms.
One day when Ciskowski was in Oregon calling on Portland State, he ran into a coach on the staff named Tim Walsh who just got the head coaching job after a successful run at Sonoma State. It was Walsh that alerted Ciskowski of a potential prospect with the Cossacks named Larry Allen.
Walsh gave Ciskowski Allen’s background and told him how if he was one year younger that he could have played at anyone of the PAC 10 schools at the time but because of his grades, the only opportunities he had were with Sonoma State or a junior college, with Allen choosing to go the route of Sonoma. Ciskowski remembers Allen being a very quiet kid almost to the point he questioned whether he really loved football but when he studied him that day, he knew that was not going to be a problem.
In Ciskowski’s area during that 1993 season, University of California had two offensive linemen, Todd Steussie and Eric Mahlum that were highly rated players. Ciskowski remembers calling his boss at the time Larry Lacewell and telling him that he thought that Allen was better than either one of those players, to which Lacewell replied that he was “Nuts” but to Ciskowski’s credit, he never backed off from his claim in what he believed he had seen in Allen’s ability.
The biggest question in Ciskowski’s mind was when dealing with a small school player is how he would stack up against better competition? In that Spring, Allen was invited to play in the East-West Game which at the time had some very talented players. Allen was more than able to hold his own against the Ohio State and Michigan’s of the world but there would be a catch.
Allen was suffering from a rotator cuff injury that looked like it needed to be repaired. For an offensive linemen to have this type of an injury to his shoulder, it could surely put him off the draft board but Cowboys trainer Kevin O’Neil was able to calm all those fears and Allen remained on the board and in a position for the Cowboys to draft him. Nine offensive linemen were taken before the Cowboys selected Larry Allen with the 46th pick overall. Other than the selection of Marshall Faulk by the Indianapolis Colts or Isaac Bruce from the then Los Angeles Rams, will this draft class have a player that is even close to the type of career that Allen had with the Cowboys?
This coming Saturday, the Pro Football Hall of Fame committee will announce their class for the 2013 enshrinement and there will be several scouts across the country waiting to hear the names of those players that will take their seat among the greatest to ever play this game.
Around here, there will be one scout sitting behind his desk looking for the next Larry Allen. But deep down, Ciskowski knows there will most likely never be another one like him. But that doesn't mean he won't keep trying.
Whether or not he ever finds another Larry Allen, Ciskowski can at least say lived that scout's dream.