By Scott Sudikoff
When football fans think of the name Larry Allen, they certainly think of the Super Bowl Champion with the Dallas Cowboys, the 11-time Pro Bowler, and the 2013 inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Larry Allen, Sr. His son, Larry Jr., is making quite the name for himself as well as an offensive lineman in Cambridge.
The senior bioengineering concentrator stands at 6-feet-4 and weighs in at 285 pounds, slightly taller and a few pounds lighter than his hall of fame father, but on the field, Larry Jr. is compiling successes just like him.
Through three years at Harvard, Allen has been named All-Ivy League on two occasions, including 2016's placement on the All-Ivy League first team. More of the same is expected of Allen in his senior campaign, as he was honored as a preseason All-American by three different publications.
"I never really felt an expectation to play," Allen said regarding the pressure to play football. "I grew up in Texas, so it was a part of life really."
Growing up in Texas as the son of a Dallas Cowboy must bring about certain pressures when it comes to football, and as one would expect, Allen did feel it from the outside.
"It's always been a factor," Allen explained. "It's been something that coaches and teammates were aware of just in general, but it's never been too much of an influence on if I had to play the game or on how I do what I do."
Allen's career in football officially began when he started to play flag football as a seven-year-old and it slowly developed into his passion.
"I'd say midway through my sophomore year of high school, my body started developing a lot more," described Allen. "My understanding of football really shot up then and it had to do with some of the guys around me, they were very serious and focused, and it led me to doing the same thing."
It was at that same point in Allen's high school career that his attention began to shift to moving onto playing football at the college level.
"That was when I knew that maybe I had a shot," said Allen. "If I just keep working and developing my skill a little more and just keep getting stronger and better, it'd be something I'd strive for."
As may be the case with many current Ivy League athletes, it may have taken some time to realize that such a future was possible for them while in high school. That held true for Larry Jr.
"The Ivy League wasn't something that I was focused on," Allen explained. "It was a lofty thing to associate with."
There was a moment that put the idea of playing football in the Ivy League and Harvard specifically at the forefront of Allen's mind though.
"I'm just sitting at my dinner table doing some homework and I got a phone call from Coach [John] Poppe," Allen described. "He transferred me to Coach [Tim] Murphy and we just talked about football. From that day onward Harvard jumped right near the top of the list."
In the end, Allen had opportunities to play football at other Ivy League schools as well as non-Ivies, and with the support of friends and family was able to commit to the Crimson.
"Most of my friends when I told them I was going out to visit [Harvard] were pretty supportive," said Allen. "They understood that it was an incredible opportunity."
As can be expected for most student-athletes transitioning to Harvard, there can be major differences compared to high school. Allen saw it on the field immediately.
"The attention to detail and the level of football," said Allen. "It was very interesting to experience that along with a bunch of savvy hard-working guys, and to try to do my best to catch-up and be the best I can be."
Being an offensive lineman Harvard can be a little daunting, especially with the lineage of Crimson players that have moved onto the pro ranks, including current players on NFL rosters; Nick Easton, Adam Redmond and Cole Toner.
"Those offensive line guys, those [upper-class] linemen my freshman and sophomore years were incredibly welcoming," Allen said. "I don't think I would have acclimated as quickly as I did or felt as comfortable as I felt if it wasn't for them."
Tim Murphy, The Thomas Stephenson Family Head Coach for Harvard Football, has been a fan of Allen's performance since coming to Cambridge.
"Since the day he arrived as a freshman Larry has been a force in the offensive line," Murphy said. "More importantly he is admired and respected by everyone for his humility and class."
When you talk to players that have played under the tutelage of Murphy, you tend to receive the same type of answer as to what drives this Harvard program to be so successful.
"The most central part of us would be the focus on worth ethic," Allen explained. "It's so ingrained in the culture. I think that breeds success year after year."
With the lineage of both his father, Larry Sr., and the former Harvard offensive linemen that have reached the professional ranks, Larry Jr. has his sights set on becoming an even more prolific performer.
"I want to become a more consistently dominant player [in my senior year]," said Allen. "I've learned a lot from the people here that have gone on to the next level and I really want to apply that this year."
What advice does Larry Jr. have for a possible future Crimson football player?
"We have a locker room full of hard-working guys that want nothing more than to win and have a fun time while winning," explained Allen. "If that's something you're interested in then come here and you'll have it in spades."
It's not just about the time on the field though, it's an all-encompassing experience for Harvard student-athletes.
"I love my teammates, but I also love this school a lot," Allen said. "This is a very special place."