DALLAS — Larry Allen, one of the most dominant offensive linemen in the NFL during a 12-year career spent mostly with the Dallas Cowboys, has died. He was 52.

Allen died suddenly on Sunday while on vacation with his family in Mexico, the Cowboys said.

A six-time All-Pro who was inducted into the Pro Football of Hall of Fame in 2013, Allen said few words but let his blocking do the talking.

“Larry, known for his great athleticism and incredible strength, was one of the most respected, accomplished offensive linemen to ever play in the NFL,” the Cowboys said Monday. “His versatility and dependability were also signature parts of his career. Through that, he continued to serve as inspiration for many other players, defining what it meant to be a great teammate, competitor and winner.”

The former Sonoma State lineman drafted in the second round by the Cowboys in 1994 — the year before the last of the franchise’s five Super Bowl titles — Allen once bench-pressed 700 pounds while dumbfounded teammates watched, then mobbed him.

Allen was feared enough among his peers that notorious trash-talker John Randle of the Minnesota Vikings decided to keep to himself when he faced the Cowboys, so as to avoid making Allen mad.

“He never said nothin’,” Nate Newton, one of Allen’s mentors on Dallas’ offensive line, told The Associated Press for its Hall of Fame story on Allen 11 years ago. “Every now and then you’d hear him utter a cuss word or hear him laugh that old funny laugh he had.”

Allen entered the Hall of Fame about a year after his mother died, knowing her presence would have helped him get through a speech after a career spent trying to avoid the spotlight.

“I miss her,” Allen said before going into the hall. “Whenever I’d get nervous or had a big game and got nervous, I’d give her a call, and she’d start making me laugh.”

The Cowboys were coming off consecutive Super Bowl wins when they drafted Allen. He was surrounded by Pro Bowl offensive linemen but didn’t take long to get noticed, eventually making 11 Pro Bowls himself.

Late in his rookie season, Allen saved a touchdown by running down Darion Conner when it looked like the New Orleans linebacker only had Troy Aikman to beat down the sideline. Most of the rest of his career was defined by power — first as a tackle, where the Cowboys figured he would be a mainstay, and ultimately as a guard.

“The National Football League is filled with gifted athletes, but only a rare few have combined the size, brute strength, speed and agility of Larry Allen,” the Hall of Fame said in a statement. “What he could do as an offensive lineman often defied logic and comprehension.”

Allen spent his final two seasons closer to home with the San Francisco 49ers. Then, true to his personality as a player, Allen retired to a quiet life in Northern California with his wife and three kids.

“He was deeply loved and cared for by his wife, Janelle — whom he referred to as his heart and soul — his daughters Jayla and Loriana and son, Larry III,” the Cowboys said.

Allen was playing at Butte College when his coach at Sonoma State, Frank Scalercio, discovered him at the junior college where the lineman landed after attending four high schools in the Los Angeles area in part because his mom moved him around to keep him away from gangs.

Then an assistant for Sonoma, Scalercio was recruiting another player when he saw Allen throw an opponent to the ground for the first time.

“I kinda forgot about the guy I was actually recruiting,” Scalercio said.

Allen ended up at tiny Sonoma, a Division II school, because his academic progress wasn’t fast enough to get him to Division I, where he probably belonged.

“He could literally beat the will out of his opponents, with many quitting midgame or not dressing at all rather than face him, but that was only on the field,” the Hall of Fame said. “Off it, he was a quiet, gentle giant.”

In retirement, Allen showed up at Sonoma basketball games — the football program was dropped a couple of years after Allen left — and happily signed autographs and posed for pictures.

“He’s even bigger now than he ever was on campus,” Tim Burrell, a friend of Allen’s, said in 2013. “Everybody loves him.”

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl



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