He grew up in NFL locker rooms, where he bounced among the likes of Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin. Fifteen years later, Larry Allen III forges his own path, one that may lead to a pro football roster spot.
Allen, the son of Hall of Fame lineman and Dallas Cowboys’ great Larry Allen, is one of the cornerstones of a Harvard team that seeks a fourth consecutive Ivy League championship. The Crimson open with a non-conference game against Rhode IslandFriday at 7 p.m. ET on ASN.
“Camp’s been fun,” Allen said. “Going against the guys on our team is great, because they’re amazing. But it’s time to get into some games and get into some fresh challenges.”
Allen’s lineage and desire give him a leg up on many of his peers. The 6-3½, 285-pound junior inherited at least some of the physical traits of his accomplished father and absorbed many of the lessons he taught in a life around football.
Larry Allen Jr., was a seven-time All-Pro and 11-time Pro Bowl designee in a 14-year career with the Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers that culminated with his induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013. He is one of the strongest men to ever play the game, famously bench-pressing 705 pounds and squatting 905 pounds.
“An inspiration, a role model,” the younger Allen said of his father.
Dad’s job and workplace put the youngster in close proximity to iconic Cowboys such as Aikman, Irvin and Smith.
“As a kid, I didn’t get how amazing it was,” Allen said. “But looking back on it, I’m so glad I got a chance to do that. I had no clue who they were at the time. They were just some guys that I saw every week or so. But the significance of it now, and the fact that I know those people, it’s just amazing.”
The Allens eventually settled in northern California, where young Larry played for prep power De La Salle. He drew interest from Pac-12 schools, including California. But he chose Harvard because of its academic pedigree and the vibe he got from players and coaches.
Both parents, Larry and Janelle Allen, stressed education to their children and wanted them to choose schools where academics were paramount. An honor student in high school, he is a bioengineering major at Harvard, a field that grabbed him when he learned that it included ways to help people regain sight, hearing and use of limbs.
“Another reason why I wanted to come here was the championship tradition,” he said. “Every year, Harvard was in contention or winning the championship. It’s something that we talk about every day. Good isn’t good enough. You need to be great if you want to win the league. To be great you have to get better every day and keep focusing on that goal.”
Allen emerged last season as a sophomore, on a veteran line that included three seniors, all of whom are on NFL rosters. He was named second-team All-Ivy League, as his pass blocking improved dramatically and his run blocking became more consistent.
“He’s one of those kids who’s really natural,” Crimson offensive line coach Jeremy Bandy said. “As far as how I coach him, I don’t have to tell Larry much. I tell him one time and it’s kind of instant oatmeal with him. He corrects it right away. To be honest, there’s some things that he’s done that are maybe a little more advanced than you’d think from a guy with his limited (playing) experience. …
“I can coach him like he’s a fifth-year senior, just because his ability and his talent level are so high, he does so many good things naturally. I can coach him hard, too, because he really responds to that, and I get after him pretty good.”
Though Allen is every bit of 285 pounds, he doesn’t have a lineman’s paunch and appears lighter than he is. He plays with great leverage, Bandy said, and is rarely off-balance or off of his feet.
“I joke with him all the time,” Bandy said, “if I were putting together a clinic tape to speak to high school coaches or college coaches or pro coaches or whoever, I could just show his game tape, because he’s in the perfect position 85-90% of the time.”
Allen leads by example more comfortably than vocally, though his leadership skills are improving. He works on all aspects of his game and understands that he has far to go in order to reach his goals. He allows himself to dream of playing professional football, and he has a pretty good resource at his disposal. He can consult his father on everything from defenses to technique to video study to being a good teammate.
“To have someone who knows all that and more, to a legendary degree, is extremely helpful,” Allen said. “Not just with the playing part, but focusing and keeping the right attitude and giving your best effort.”