As many high school football players now know they’ll be training mostly on their own for another few months before the start of their next season, writing down goals and looking at them every day can be a very positive experience. A great example we know of is from Larry Allen, one of the greatest offensive linemen in NFL history. We once talked to him about goal-setting, long before he earned his first All-Pro honor with the Dallas Cowboys. His back-story of what he overcame to get to the Hall of Fame also is the stuff of legend. Go inside as well for list of all of the Pro Football Hall of Famers from the state.
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When Larry Allen was dominating as an offensive lineman for the Dallas Cowboys in the late 1990s and early 2000s, he was regarded by many as the strongest man in football. He was an 11-time Pro Bowler and in 2013 he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
In Canton, which was celebrating its 50th year of the Hall of Fame Festival that year, Larry was joined by family and friends, including Larry Allen Jr., his son, who started in the offensive line at De La Salle of Concord teams from 2012 and 2013 that won the CIF Open Division state title (2012) and lost in the 2013 state final. Larry Jr. later went on to play at Boise State.
We were lucky enough to interview Larry Sr. shortly after the 1994 NFL Draft. It was a draft that had eight former California high school players taken in the first round, including Willie McGinest of Long Beach Poly, Aaron Taylor of De La Salle and Trent Dilfer of Aptos. Allen was selected in the second round, 46th overall.
At the time, our Student Sports Magazine covered college football in California and Larry had emerged as a pro prospect out of tiny Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park (near Santa Rosa).
We knew of his difficult childhood before making the phone call, but hearing him talk about it brought forth a deeper admiration how he was able to overcome it.
If you don’t know, Allen was born and grew up in Compton. When he was 10, he got into a fight with another neighborhood kid. To give himself an edge, young Larry grabbed a broomstick and a chain. The other boy grabbed a knife. Allen was stabbed 12 times, but lucky for him none of the wounds were that serious.
Tough times continued to follow Allen and his mother. They moved frequently. He ended up attending four different high schools in four years. He began at Centennial of Compton, which was followed by a move north where he went to Tokay of Lodi, Armijo of Fairfield and Vintage of Napa.
We have counted Larry from Vintage, but he didn’t graduate from there. It was just the last high school he attended. He later obtained a high school diploma through adult school.
Despite that background, Allen continued to harbor the dream that he might one day play football. He eventually settled on Butte College in Oroville (the same California JC that helped launch quarterback Aaron Rodgers after he went to Pleasant Valley of Chico). At Butte, he showed flashes of potential, but still didn’t have the academic resume to attract too much Division I college attention.
After Oroville, Allen settled on playing at Sonoma State University (now Cal-State Sonoma) in Rohnert Park. It was there that he finally began to blossom, cut out a penchant for getting into fights and received effective guidance from Sonoma State coaches Tim Walsh, Frank Scalercio and Jeff Ramsey.
One aspect of the coaches’ working with Allen was to get their big fella to begin to write down his goals and look at them every day.
“He just needed someone to believe in him,” Scalercio said at the time.
Some of Larry’s goals were of a personal nature, such as learning how to budget money, but others were athletic, like getting an all-conference honor. The bottom goal, it was believed, could be more realistic if the others higher on the list were crossed off. That last one, of course, was to play in the NFL.
“I learned a lot (by writing down my goals),” Allen told us at the time. “It was always my dream to play in the NFL. My coaches thought it was far-fetched at first, but that was what I wanted to accomplish.”
Allen said he continued to look at his list of goals for positive reinforcement, and was reminded of them often by his coaches, his mother and his grandmother.
After being chosen by the Cowboys, Allen obviously continued to work hard and wasn’t satisfied by just playing in the NFL. He kept getting bigger, stronger and more refined. For most of his career, he was 6-3, 325 pounds.
This is a player who in high school had no stars and no recognition whatsoever. He didn’t go to USC, Alabama or anywhere even close and only began to get noticed until his senior year at a college that doesn’t even have a football team anymore.
“NFL clubs will find you wherever you are,” Allen told us in 1994. “You just have to work hard and set goals. And you have to think about your goals every day.”
It’s a bottom line that still rings true today, whether you are a player like him who may be getting overlooked or a player who just wants to create some special memories during what will be the strangest high school football season in state history given its anticipated starting and ending dates.
Keep your dreams alive, write down your goals and look at them at least once every morning to affirm them.
PRO FOOTBALL HALL OF FAMERS
(Listed in order of year inducted)
1963 – Ernie Nevers, RB (Santa Rosa)
1965 – Bob Waterfield, QB (Van Nuys)
1969 – Joe Perry, RB (Los Angeles Jordan)
1970 – Tom Fears, WR (Los Angeles Manual Arts)
1970 – Hugh McElhenny, RB (Los Angeles Washington)
1971 – Norm Van Brocklin, QB (Lafayette Acalanes)
1972 – Gino Marchetti, DE (Antioch)
1982 – Ollie Matson, RB (San Francisco Washington)
1977 – Frank Gifford, RB (Bakersfield)
1979 – Ron Mix, OT (Hawthorne)
1985 – O.J. Simpson, RB (San Francisco Galileo)
1985 – Pete Rozelle, Commissioner (Compton)
1987 – John Henry Johnson, RB (Pittsburg)
1990 – Bob St. Clair, OT (San Francisco Poly)
1991 – Tex Schramm, Administrator (Alhambra)
1993 – Dan Fouts, QB (San Francisco St. Ignatius)
1993 – Bill Walsh, Coach (L.A. Washington & Hayward)
1994 – Jimmy Johnson, DB (Kingsburg)
1995 – Joe Gibbs, Coach (Santa Fe Springs Santa Fe)
1997 – Mike Haynes, DB (Los Angeles Marshall)
1997 – Anthony Munoz, OT (Ontario Chaffey)
2000 – Ronnie Lott, DB (Rialto Eisenhower)
2001 – Lynn Swann, WR (San Mateo Serra)
2001 – Ron Yary, OT (Bellflower)
2003 – Marcus Allen, RB (San Diego Lincoln)
2003 – James Lofton, WR (Los Angeles Washington)
2004 – John Elway, QB (Granada Hills)
2006 – John Madden, Coach (Daly City Jefferson)
2006 – Warren Moon, QB (Los Angeles Hamilton)
2007 – Bruce Matthews, OL (Arcadia)
2008 – Gary Zimmerman, OT (Walnut)
2011 – Les Richter, LB (Fresno)
2013 – Larry Allen, OL (Napa Vintage last school attended)*
2015 – Junior Seau, LB (Oceanside)
2016 – Dick Stanfel, OL (San Francisco Commerce)
2017 – Terrell Davis, RB (San Diego Lincoln)
2018 – Bobby Beathard, QB/Coach/Exec (El Segundo)
2019 – Tony Gonzalez, TE (Huntington Beach)
Note: None from California were scheduled to go in during 2020 inductions (which have been postponed until next summer).
Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at [email protected]. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @CalHiSports