Former Sonoma State football All-American Larry Allen, who became the first student-athlete to be drafted by the National Football League in the 20-year history of football at SSU, will be inducted into the Division II Football Hall of Fame on Friday, as part of the 26th annual Harlon Hill Trophy and Division II Football Hall of Fame Banquet in Florence, Ala. Allen will join 25 other former Division II football student-athletes who have already been inducted, including former NFL greats Walter Payton, Andre Reed, John Randle, Rod Smith and Shannon Sharpe, just to name a few.
It feels great to be inducted," Allen said. "It is a great honor for me."
Allen played on the offensive line for two seasons at Sonoma State (1992 and 1993) and absolutely dominated and paralyzed his opponents. The best athlete to ever come out of SSU, Allen twice earned Kodak All-America and First Team Associated Press All-America honors and was an unanimous selection on several other All-America squads. He was so dominating that Allen was named the Northern California Athletic Conference (NCAC) Offensive Player of the Year as a lineman, unheard of for a player that didn't play quarterback, running back or wide receiver. As a senior in 1993, Allen gave up only one sack and was part of an offense that established ten new school records under head coach Frank Scalercio. He also participated in the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl.
True stories have emerged about Allen's playing days at Sonoma State, including several occasions that he sent a couple of defenders flying into the air (some near unconsciousness), breaking some of their bones and/or tearing their ligaments as a result. One instance was caught on tape and the image of a Portland State defender being blocked and thrown into the air by Allen was repeatedly shown on ESPN as the 1994 NFL Draft approached.
In the 1994 NFL Draft, Allen was selected in the second round (46th overall) by the Dallas Cowboys and was the tenth offensive lineman to be selected that year. However, he quickly proved himself to be the best in the NFL and was named to 11 Pro Bowls in 14 seasons, 10 of which came with the Dallas Cowboys -- more than any offensive player in Dallas' franchise history. In addition, Allen was a seven-time All-Pro selection, a member of the 1990's and 2000's All-Decade Teams and he won a Super Bowl ring with the Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX on Jan. 28, 1996. He was instrumental in helping former Dallas running back, Emmitt Smith, sprint towards the all-time NFL rushing record -- Smith gained 11,463 of his 17,162 career yards with Dallas after Allen joined the Cowboys in 1994.
Allen finished his playing career with the San Francisco 49ers in 2006 and 2007, but signed a one-day contract with Dallas prior to the 2008 season, enabling him to retire with the franchise that drafted him 14 years earlier. He is arguably the strongest person to ever play in the NFL, having recorded a bench press of 692 pounds (although some have said Allen has lifted in excess of 700 pounds) and a squat lift of 900 pounds. In 2010, Allen was No. 95 on the NFL Films Top 100 Greatest Players list (see video).
Just recently, Allen was added into the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor, one of 20 former Cowboys to have his name enshrined around Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Leading up to his success in NFL, Allen said that "I had a great head coach (Scalercio) my senior season, who also coached the offensive line. I learned a lot of great things from him."
As for playing on a college team at the Division II level, as opposed to playing for a recognized Division I program, Allen said that "it was a great opportunity for me to showcase my talents and Sonoma State had a great atmosphere for me to do that. SSU was a great school."
Prior to his two year stint at Sonoma State, Allen played two seasons at Butte College in Oroville, Calif., and helped the Roadrunners to a pair of 10-1 records and Golden Valley Conference titles.
Friday's induction ceremony is part of the NCAA Division II Football Championship weekend, which will also feature the presentation of the Harlon Hill Trophy (Division II's version of the Heisman Trophy) and the playing of the 39th annual Division II Football Championship Game on Saturday between Pittsburg State and Wayne State (Michigan).
Also being inducted into the NCAA Division II Football Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2011 is running back Fred McAfee (Mississippi College; 1987-90) and coach Bill Burgess (Jacksonville State; 1985-92).
Established in 1999, the Division II Football Hall of Fame inducted former Division II players annually from 1999-2009 before inducting its first class of coaches in 2010. This year's list of inductees includes two former Division II players and one coach, bringing the total number of players inducted to 27 and the total number of coaches to four. The inductees were chosen by a selection committee and the official announcement was made on July 12, 2011 by Division II Football Hall of Fame Chairman Jeff Hodges.
The Division II Football Hall of Fame is sponsored by The City of Florence, Florence-Lauderdale Tourism, OptiNet, Herff Jones and the Marriott Shoals Hotel and Spa. Tickets to the Harlon Hill Trophy and Division II Football Hall of Fame Banquet are $50 per person or $400 for a table of eight and are available by calling the Shoals Chamber of Commerce (256-764-4661) or the University of North Alabama Sports Information Office (256-765-4595).