The most important part of each season may be the daily practice grind in July and August, when a team is truly built. As a countdown to this year's training camp, we celebrate the 53rd year of Cowboys football by constructing the team's all-time 53-man roster, picking one player from each season.
Not so much the 53 best players in club history, DallasCowboys.com has constructed the ultimate team, filling out the depth chart and making room for contributors at every position, including special teams, while at the same time looking ahead to how this year's 53-man roster might shake out.
The series continues today with 1997 and guard Larry Allen.
College: Sonoma State
Cowboys Tenure: 1994-2004
Why Him? When talking about the greatest players in Cowboys history, for some reason, Larry Allen typically isn't right at the top of the list. Names such as Staubach, Lilly, Emmitt and Aikman tend to surface up there. While Allen isn't too far behind them in the discussion, he's likely the most consensus player at his position than any other player in franchise history. Maybe that's how great Allen was, or just how much better he was than the rest of the interior linemen. Nothing against players such as Nate Newton, John Niland and Blaine Nye, but there was only one Larry Allen. He had that rare combination of unmatched power with surprising athleticism. Never was that on display more than his rookie season in 1994 when a flat-footed Allen saw an interception thrown to the flat, picked off by a Saints linebacker. Allen didn't give up on the play and fetched the smaller and quicker Darion Conner to save a touchdown. The Saints ended up getting only a field goal in a game the Cowboys held on to win. Through the years, Allen also showed versatility, playing guard and tackle, and doing both at an All-Pro level. Known for bench-pressing 700 pounds one offseason, Allen used that dominant power to his advantage, racking up many pancakes in his time with the Cowboys. He made nine Pro Bowls in his 11 seasons with the Cowboys, missing out only in his rookie season when he was more of a backup, and in 2002 when he battled an ankle injury for most of the season. He recently made it to the Ring of Honor at Cowboys Stadium and it won't be long before he'll be added to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
The Role: If there is one thing Allen proved over the years, other than his brute strength, was the fact he could not only play just about any spot on the line, but also do so with excellence. For this team, Allen will be the starting left guard, but it's clear he could have played just about any spot other than center, and who knows, he might be able to handle that with some practice. But guard was his clearly his best position – the place where he could use that strength to his advantage. For this Ultimate 53-man roster, Allen will play next to left tackle Rayfield Wright, forming one of the more athletic/dominating left-side tandems imaginable.
Back To The Future: Last season, the Cowboys actually had someone that resembled Larry Allen working with the offensive line during the practices and one the sidelines. Actually ... it was Larry Allen. The Cowboys had the former All-Pro working with the linemen on technique and he showed up to Valley Ranch several times during the season. But the simple fact the Cowboys had Allen out there working with the guys should suggest there really isn't anyone remotely close to a comparison to arguably the greatest offensive linemen in NFL history, most certainly in Cowboys' history. Dallas has needed interior help for a while and that's why they signed veterans Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau in the offseason. If, and this if weighs more than the 700 pounds Allen benched about 10 years ago, but if there is a possible comparison, the Cowboys can only hope it would be with Memphis rookie Ronald Leary. Yeah, this guy hasn't played a snap yet, but he's got talent, excelled at offensive tackle in college, and will be moving inside to guard. So far, he's played rather well and has a chance to start. Again, it'd be a pipedream to assume any player will come out of nowhere and be the next Larry Allen. He's a once-in-a-lifetime player, and one of the best this franchise has ever known.