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Remembering Larry Allen

Eatman: Making case for 'LA' as No. 1 Cowboy


FRISCO, Texas – In my time with the Cowboys, I've been a part of several all-time lists ranking the players. We did a Top 40 in 1999 and then a Top 50 and a Top 60 over the next 20 years.

Usually, it's either Roger Staubach or Emmitt Smith taking the top spot.

Taking nothing away from those two legends, but I've always made the claim that Larry Allen should be considered right up there with both of them.

And no, this isn't just a recency bias based off the sudden news we learned Monday of Larry Allen passing away at the age of 52. Sometimes, when tragedy strikes, we tend to get caught up in the moment and perhaps embellish the reality of the situation.

But that's not the case. I've said it too many times over the years and I'll shout it out again: Larry Allen should be considered a Top 5 player in Cowboys history and you can certainly argue him as No. 1.

I get it, offensive linemen have never been ranked up there with the skill players. That hasn't changed over the years and probably won't in the future.

But think about it - what Cowboys player can you say is even in the conversation for being the best to ever play his position?

Ok we can go there. Emmitt Smith has the rushing record for sure and probably will forever. But I don't think football purists say that Emmitt was the best runner. Jim Brown, Barry Sanders and Walter Payton seem to get more love with that conversation, regardless of the yards Emmitt racked up.

Roger Staubach is considered the No. 1 Cowboys player of all-time by fans, but I don't know if I've ever heard an unbiased fan claim him the best quarterback to ever play. I doubt he's even in the Top 10 anymore.

Randy White and Bob Lilly were among the best defensive tackles, but probably not the greatest ever.

Ok, here's one. Deion Sanders in my opinion was definitely the best cornerback to play the position. And when it comes to him being a Cowboys player, he's actually been on the roster for more games with Dallas than any other team he played for. So, if there's the "he's not really a Cowboy" debate, then he's really not associated with anyone. I think Deion is the only one you can argue there, but he didn't play with the Cowboys long enough to be considered the best in team history.

So that takes me back to Larry Allen. The NFL's all-time list of 100 great players included seven guards. Allen was listed first for alphabetical reasons, but I think it was a good spot for him either way. Others on there include Randall McDaniel, John Hannah, Bruce Matthews and Gene Upshaw, along with Dan Fortmann and Jim Parker from the pre-Super Bowl era.

I'm not going to begin to admit that I've seen most of those guys play or that I've ever really heard of all of them.

I think the things that make Larry stand out more than the rest are the extremely athletic moments where he's chasing down a linebacker or bench-pressing an ungodly amount of weight. Or more than anything, where he's throwing defensive tackles around like a ragdoll.

Granted, Allen played in an era where we have a lot more video footage than some of those other guards. Then again, he has played in over 15 years and it's not like we've seen a lot of other guards doing anything close to this.

For those reasons, where I truly believe Allen is the greatest guard to ever play the game, I think Allen has to be considered among the very best players to ever wear the star on his helmet.

If he's not the greatest Dallas Cowboy to ever play the game, it's because Roger Staubach and/or Emmitt Smith won more Super Bowls and did it at a higher-profile position.

But if you strip away the position bias, and just line up their credentials across the board, I think Larry Allen is arguably the best player to ever suit up for the Cowboys.

Sadly enough, whether he's No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 or even just in the Top 20, his ranking isn't going to bring him back to us. For us fans who watched him play, rankings like this are fun. But the reason we're even talking about this right now is because he's gone too soon. I'm sure his wife Janelle, daughters Jayla and Loriana and son Larry III, couldn't care less about rankings and just want their husband and father back.

And for them, that's the only thing that matters. I totally get that.

But when the conversation of football comes up, I hope they know that Larry Allen was arguably the best to ever play for this franchise.