CANTON, Ohio — For newly-inducted Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Larry Allen, it was love at first bite.
“On our first date, she cooked for me,” Allen said of his “heart and soul” Janelle in a speech that was one of the highlights of the Saturday ceremony in Canton. “She cooked me two chickens, french fries, baked me a cake and gave me a 40-ounce.
“I knew then that was my wife right there.”
Allen, one of the greatest offensive lineman of his or any other generation, demonstrated in his 16-minute presentation a raw and funny eloquence that was rarely evident to those outside the Dallas Cowboys locker room. He wore sunglasses to hide his tears, nervously rubbed his mouth when pausing and wrung his hands together while cracking wise. And the quiet giant did crack wise, including making a reference to his chewing-tobacco habit and taking a sly dig at athletes who achieve great strength through pharmaceuticals.
“I did it naturally, all right,” he said, barely hiding a grin. “What’s funny is once I benched 700 pounds (making him the NFL’s strongest man), they tested me twice a week for the rest of my career.”
Allen revealed more about himself in these 16 minutes – discussing his upbringing and his children and his drive – than he did in his spectacular dozen-year career. The former second-rounder out of tiny Sonoma State praises the Dallas scouts who found him, referred to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones (his presenter here) as a “father figure,” made touching mention of the attributes of his three children, and cited numerous members of the Cowboys organization, from Hall-of-Fame teammates Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, Deion Sanders and Emmitt Smith to the club’s trainers and equipment men.
He mentioned how his mother ordered him to fight a bully until he finally won. He spoke of his father instructing him not “to get mad, but to get even.” He told the story of his grandmother, Berkeley Dotson, guiding him at 14 to find something he could be good at and go do it.