Football 101: No. 44, Larry Allen
We continue with our weekly roundups of the next players in the Football 101—my personal countdown of the greatest players in pro football history. Thanks for reading, and for those who aren’t subscribers, I hope you’ll consider joining!
Larry Allen was probably the strongest man in NFL history. There’s no way to know for sure, of course; it’s not even clear what “strongest” means when it comes to football. I mean, the Titans’ bruising running back Derrick Henry is obviously strong in his way, New Orleans’ Swiss-army knife back Alvin Kamar is absurdly strong in his way, Rams’ defensive tackle Aaron Donald is super-strong in his way, Washington tight end Vernon Davis is famously strong in his way.
But when you talk about “strong” in the aggregate as in, “Which player is most likely to pick up that Jeep Cherokee over there?” well, let’s let the late, great John Madden explain.
“When you say ‘strong,’” Madden told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “Larry Allen may have been the strongest guy who ever played. If you were to have a game, and you were going to choose up sides, and you weren’t sure exactly what the rules were, boxing or wrestling or football, you’d choose Larry Allen.”
When it comes to Allen’s greatness, you don’t really want to talk about his offensive line technique, though he was as technically sound as anybody (he played every position on the line except center, gave up only 3.2 sacks per season — the best of any offensive lineman of his era — and was called for holding just 13 times in 207 starts). No, with Allen, you talk about muscle and you talk about heart.
“I just wanted to make the other guy give up,” Allen said.