It was a sunny day in Las Vegas when I met Larry Allen.
At the time I was an employee at Banana Republic folding shirts at the beautiful hotel and casino, Venetian. I knew immediately who he was when he walked in. He made all the shirts look small.
Larry Allen is a big guy. You probably already know that. Or maybe you don’t. Offensive linemen tend to look normal on television when they stand next to other giants.
Feb 2, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; NFL former player Larry Allen reacts after being selected to the pro football hall of fame during a NFL Network presentation at the New Orleans Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
When a guy like Larry Allen (6ft 3in and 325 pounds) stands in the real world, next to normal size people, the dude is going to stick out.
Within seconds, I had a pen in my hand. I touched a blue button on the cash register to print out a small — blank — piece of paper.
But my feet couldn’t move towards Larry Allen.
I was nervous. I mean, it was Larry Allen, the starting left guard for the Dallas Cowboys!
He was known to be one of the strongest men in the NFL who once benched pressed 705 pounds. On top of that, former head coach and game announcer John Madden regarded him as the greatest to play that position, and maybe the greatest to ever play as an offensive linemen.
Larry Allen was a hero, who protected my other favorite heroes such as Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin.
My co-workers made fun of me. They told me to hurry up; he could be leaving soon, they said. That much was true considering how obvious it was that none of the clothes there could fit him.
As I made my way to Larry Allen, the people he walked in with (I think they were trainers) stopped and noticed. They looked surprised that somebody might know who Larry Allen was. After all, offensive linemen aren’t glorified. It’s only when they make mistakes do we hear their numbers or names announced. Right?
When I asked Larry Allen to sign my receipt paper with blue ink, I wanted to ask him a hundred questions. I wanted to know if he had a chance to talk to newly hired head coach Bill Parcells. I wanted to know what it was like to play football in the National Football League. I wanted to know what he ate. I wanted to know how he felt about his chances of winning another Super Bowl.
Larry Allen signed my paper and handed it to me with a smile. I thanked him, and immediately turned away without saying another word.
What an idiot!
What struck me most about my encounter with Larry Allen was his presence. He didn’t walk in the store with guns blazing. He didn’t have a larger than life persona. He was normal. He was one of us: The cool guy people want to hang out with. Larry Allen had this ease about him that made you feel comfortable.
And that’s how Larry Allen played the game. He didn’t have to be a flashy, in your face kind of player. To me, Larry Allen eptiomized the meaning of classy. That’s what I remember of number 73 when I met him — that he was classy and humble.
These days it’s hard to think about what The Dallas Cowboys are doing right. But when you see Larry Allen, when you think about his legacy, you got to feel good about what the combination of him and this organization did together.
The Cowboys did him right. He did us right. And now that he is going into the Hall of Fame, the NFL did him right.
If I ever meet Larry Allen again I would probably thank him. I would thank him for all the dedicated years he gave us fans, all of his hard work and hard shots he took as a left guard.
I’d remind him that even though the spotlight followed the likes of Emmitt Smith or Michael Irvin, us fans knew how great he was; and that the team’s success had to start with his success at the line.
Finally, I’d ask him to sign me another autograph because I lost his first signature. I’d probably say, “Ok, thanks, bye!” And then dart in the opposite direction feeling pretty cool that I just met up with a Cowboy hero.