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Cowboys legend Larry Allen dies at age 52: Where Hall of Fame lineman ranks among franchise’s all-time greats

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No one loved offensive-line play more than John Madden, the former Hall of Fame coach and legendary NFL broadcaster who once paid Larry Allen the ultimate compliment.Β 

Madden, who was on the call for a 1999 game between the Cowboys and Colts, openly marveled at the play of Allen, a Hall of Fame offensive guard who passed awayΒ Sunday at the age of 52 while on vacation with his family, the Cowboys announced Monday.Β 

“If I ever went back to coaching, never would, but if I could take one guy with me, it would be old number 73 in white,” Madden said of Allen.Β 

It was easy to see why Madden was so fond of Allen, a force of a player who helped the Cowboys win their third and final Super Bowl during the 1990s. In fact, it was Allen’s crushing block of Steelers All-Pro linebacker Greg Lloyd during the opening drive of Super Bowl XXX that sprung running back Emmitt Smith loose for a 23-yard gain. The long run helped set up the game’s first score as the Cowboys ultimately became the first team to win three Super Bowls over a four-year span.Β 

Allen is an all-time great, and among the greatest players to ever play for the Cowboys. Here’s a look at the company Allen keeps.Β 

*Seasons played in Dallas in parenthesis

Honorable mention: Mel Renfro, CB (1964-77)Β 

The Cowboys’ first of many dominant defensive backs, Renfro’s 52 career picks is still the most in franchise history. A 10-time Pro Bowler, Renfro won two Super Bowls as a member of the Cowboys’ vaunted Doomsday defense during the 1970s.Β 

10. Jason Witten, TE (2003-17, 2019)Β 

A fan favorite during his years with the Cowboys, Witten — an 11-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro — is the franchise’s career leader in receptions (1,215) and receiving yards (12,977). Witten, who will be eligible for induction into the Hall of Fame in 2026, owns the unofficial title as the greatest tight end in Cowboys history and one of the franchise’s best players without a Super Bowl ring.Β 

If you said that Martin is the Cowboys’ best player this century, it would be hard to dispute that. Martin’s seven All-Pro nods is tied for the most in franchise history, while his nine Pro Bowl selections is tied for the second most in franchise annals. Martin’s pass protection over the years has provided clear sight lines for both Tony Romo and Dak Prescott. He also played an integral role in Ezekiel Elliott leading the NFL in rushing in both 2014 and 2016.Β 

8. Tony Dorsett, RB (1977-87)Β 

Dorsett was the missing piece to the Cowboys’ championship puzzle. The speedy running back helped lead the Cowboys to victory in Super Bowl XII as a rookie while becoming the first player to win the Heisman Trophy, a national title and a Super Bowl. Dorsett retired as the Cowboys’ all-time leading rusher and is still the owner of the longest play (a 99-yard touchdown run) in franchise history.Β 

7. Larry Allen, OL (1994-2005)Β 

Among all the Cowboys’ 1990s stars, Allen is the most decorated as far as Pro Bowls and All-Pros are concerned. His 10 total Pro Bowl nods is the third most of any player in franchise history and two more than his closest teammate. Allen’s six All-Pro nods is the fourth-highest mark in team annals.Β 

6. Randy White, DT (1975-88)Β 

Nicknamed “The Manster,” White wreaked havoc on opposing defenses during his 14-year career. His greatest moment took place in Super Bowl XII, when he shared game MVP honors with linebacker Harvey Martin. White’s seven All-Pro nods is tied for the most in franchise history.Β 

5. Michal Irvin, WR (1988-99)Β 

Regarded as the heart and soul of the ’90s Cowboys, Irvin was a physical, intimidating wideout who more than lived up to his “Playmaker” nickname. A 1990s All-Decade performer, Irvin made five straight Pro Bowls and was a key cog in each of Dallas’ three Super Bowl wins over that span. His two touchdowns in Super Bowl XXVII contributed to the third-largest blowout win in Super Bowl history.Β 

4. Troy Aikman, QB (1989-2000)Β 

Aikman’s machine-like efficiency was a big reason why the 1990s Cowboys offense is in the conversation as arguably the greatest in pro football history. The first quarterback to win 90 games in a single decade, Aikman was a gaudy 11-4 in the postseason as the Cowboys’ starting quarterback. He won Super Bowl XXVII MVP honors after riddling the Bills‘ defense to the tune of 273 yards and four touchdowns on 22 of 30 passing.Β 

3. Emmitt Smith, RB (1990-02)

If Irvin was the heart and soul, then Smith was the engine that drove the Cowboys’ prolific offense. In 1992, Smith became the first rushing champion to also win the Super Bowl. A decade later, he rushed into the history books by becoming the NFL’s all-time career rushing leader. Smith, who in 1993 was named both league and Super Bowl MVP, is also the Super Bowl’s career rushing leader.Β 

2. Bob Lilly, DT (1961-74)Β 

“Mr. Cowboy” is also arguably the greatest defensive tackle in NFL history. In fact, Aaron Donald is the only defensive tackle ranked ahead of Lilly on ProFootballReference.com’s Hall of Fame monitor.Β 

The Cowboys’ first great player, Lilly helped Dallas go from an obscure franchise to one of the NFL’s best. An 11-time Pro Bowler and seven-time All-Pro, Lilly fittingly made history while helping the Cowboys win their first of five Super Bowls. In Super Bowl VI, his sack of Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese resulting in a 29-yard loss remains the largest loss of yardage for a single play in Super Bowl history.Β 

1. Roger Staubach, QB (1969-79)

No surprise here. Arguably the most famous Cowboy of them all, “Captain America” quarterbacked America’s Team to four Super Bowls during the 1970s. The Cowboys won two of the games largely on the right arm of Staubach, who won MVP honors during Dallas’ first Super Bowl win, a 24-3 win over a Dolphins team that would go on to win the next two Super Bowls.Β 

A member of the NFL’s 100th Anniversary Team, Staubach’s impact on the Cowboys was felt immediately upon being named the team’s starter in 1971. The Cowboys did not lose a game that season after Tom Landry named Staubach the starter over veteran Craig Morton. Four years later, Staubach authored the first-ever “Hail Mary” pass that paved the way for the Cowboys’ third-ever trip to the Super Bowl.Β 

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Author: Bryan DeArdo
June 3, 2024 | 2:15 pm

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