DALLAS — Larry Allen had just been drafted by the Dallas Cowboys when he found himself standing in front of a couple of hundred kids attending a football camp at Sonoma State, the alma mater that made his future Hall of Fame career possible.
His coach, Frank Scalercio, knew he was testing the best player he ever coached, coaxing the soft spoken but massive offensive lineman into a few words.
"Just say no," Allen blurted out.
That was it.
"I can see that nothing's going to happen, so then I jump in and kind of close it out for him real quick," Scalercio said. "Some of the guys still laugh about it today when they're around. They talk about the first speech he made."
Allen is getting ready for another one. A big one.
After 12 dominant seasons and a Super Bowl title with the Cowboys — and two final years closer to home with San Francisco — Allen's Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement speech Saturday night will be on national television in front of thousands of people at Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio.
Plenty of family and friends will be there — but not his mother, Vera Allen. The woman responsible for steering him away from gangs as a kid in the Los Angeles area died a year ago. The biggest public speaking gig of his life would have been the perfect time to have her around.
"I miss her," Allen said. "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."
A six-time All-Pro, Allen has already cried once over the Hall of Fame — the day his name was announced. He's not ashamed to say he'll probably cry again.