CANTON, Ohio – On a cool night perfect for football, the Dallas Cowboys saw their 14th player, as well as their second head coach, added to football's greatest fraternity.
In front of a raucous crowd at nearby Fawcett Stadium, the Pro Football Hall of Fame welcomed offensive guard Larry Allen and coach Bill Parcells into its 2013 enshrinement class.
Allen, who mastered nearly every position along the Cowboys' offensive line during a 14-year career, joined five other NFL all-time players as a member of the 2013 Hall of Fame enshrinement class.
Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones introduced Allen, saying, "for a man of his size, he was the toughest, strongest, fastest, quickest man I'd ever seen."
Allen was notorious for his reticence as one of the anchors of the Cowboys' fantastic offensive line – "I never had to use words during my career, I used my helmet," he said.
But however justified that reputation might be, Allen was gregarious and outgoing on Saturday night. He laughed and joked for roughly 16 minutes behind a dark pair of sunglasses that held back tears, and he perhaps stole the evening with a joke about how he met his wife, Janelle.
"On our first date, she made me two chickens, French fries, baked me a cake and gave me a 40 ounce," he said. "I knew then, that was my wife."
A native of Los Angeles, Calif., Allen played for unheralded Sonoma State, before the Cowboys' scouting staff sought him out and took him in the second round of the 1994 NFL Draft. If the joke about his first date wasn't good enough, Allen shared a story about his phone call with Jones on draft day.
"I remember getting the call from Jerry, saying 'Son, would you like to be a Cowboy?' I said, 'Yes sir,'" Allen said. "I ran out my apartment and jumped in the swimming pool with all my clothes on."
From his second year onward, Allen stockpiled accolades, including a Super Bowl championship and seven straight out of 11 overall Pro Bowl designations.
"One of the most valuable lessons I learned was to never back down from anybody," Allen said. "I carried that lesson my whole career. I just knew I had to win every play, and that's the reason why I'm here."
Allen helped paved the way for Cowboys teammate Emmitt Smith to set the NFL all-time rushing record. Smith addressed the crowd briefly before Allen took the podium to congratulate his blocker.
"Larry Allen has been a tremendous asset to the Dallas Cowboys," Smith said. "He was an asset to The Triplets, as well as just – the superior offensive line we had afforded all of us the opportunity to go out there and shine."
Allen's enshrinement alongside Hall of Fame teammates Smith, Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders was something he touched on happily.
"Troy Aikman showed me how to come to work every day and be a professional. Michael Irvin – nobody practices harder than Michael Irvin," Allen said. "Deion Sanders showed me it was alright to be the best. And Emmitt Smith – the all-time leading rusher – he's been a great friend to me."
Those faces were just a few of the many who showed out to represent the latest Cowboy in the Hall of Fame. Darren Woodson, Russell Maryland, Jay Novacek, Tyson Walter, Kelvin Garmon and Solomon Page were just a few of those in attendance.
Speaking fourth on the night, just behind Allen, was Parcells, whose four-year stint in Dallas was the final success of a four-decade odyssey in coaching.
Parcells revitalized the Cowboys roughly a decade ago by breaking a four-year playoff draught for the franchise. That accomplishment earned him the distinction of being the only NFL coach to take four different teams to the playoffs.
The Englewood, N.J., native also reached the postseason with the New York Jets and the New England Patriots, and he captured two Super Bowl championships with the New York Giants.
"I worked for the New York Giants -- the flagship franchise -- and the Mara family, Robert Kraft and the New England Patriots, the late Deion Hatch and the great Jerry Jones and his family there in Dallas," Parcells said. [embedded_ad]
Whoever he might have worked for, Parcells' 183 career wins, 11 total postseason wins and two Super Bowl trophies are justification enough for his inclusion in Canton. The difference, he said, was every organization's commitment to winning.
"I've seen coaches go to these franchises and get fired very quickly, because the situation would not allow them to succeed," Parcells said. "Fortunately for Bill Parcells, I was never in one of those situations – every organization I worked for supported me to the fullest."
Most of the Cowboys' young players departed Canton early Saturday night, following a tour of the Hall of Fame. Among those who stayed behind to hear "The Big Tuna" speak were the Cowboys' established veterans – holdovers from the Parcells era such as Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware and Tony Romo.
In keeping with that pedigree, Parcells led his induction speech with a joke about perhaps his most famous player.
"When they add my bust to the Hall tomorrow, I just hope they put it near Lawrence Taylor, so I can keep an eye on that sucker," he said.
Those names are just some of the more recent figures touched on among of litany of greats Parcells touched on – those like Tom Landry, Bill Belichick and more.
"I was lucky to have some of the top names, currently, as head coaches in football," he said. "I want them to know that I'm grateful for their support of me – very grateful."