Marcus Allen began his collegiate career at USC as a fullback for three reasons: 1) the man playing the marquee role of halfback, Ricky Bell, would win the Heisman Trophy that year; 2) Allen was too talented to keep on the bench, and 3) coaches wondered about his foot speed. Even though Allen would later be moved to halfback and collect his own Heisman before graduating, questions about his jets dogged him into the pros.
In the early weeks of his second season with the Los Angeles Raiders, Allen had the temerity to approach the President of the General Partner, Al Davis, saying, "I'd sure like to run more."
Davis's curt reply: "Take a few laps after practice."
Four months later the Raiders met the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XVIII and the running back in everyone's pregame story was Allen's counterpart, John Riggins. The Redskin rusher had been the MVP of the previous year's Super Bowl, in which Washington had defeated the Miami Dolphins.
Los Angeles led 28-9 late in the third quarter when it took over the ball on downs on its own 26-yard line. No one in silver-and-black wore a look of comfort, however: In October these same two teams had met, and the Skins had pasted 17 unanswered points on da Raidas in a come-from-behind victory. But Washington would not catch up to Oakland today because Washington could not catch up to Marcus Allen.
"I really did screw up that play," Allen would later say of 17 Bob Trail, the off-tackle sweep that he would ad-lib into a 74-yard touchdown. "The tight end and tackle double-team the linebacker, and the guard pulls. [Guard] Mickey Marvin did a good job on the block, and I should have gone inside him. But I pulled back, reversed field, and there was an alley."
Allen started left and then, spotting strong safety Ken Coffey, reversed his direction. But instead of continuing toward the right sideline for a modest gain Allen cut up inside, a daring thrust between the hash marks. By rights someone in maroon-and-white should have shellacked him.
Instead Allen zoomed past linebackers Monte Coleman and Rich Minot, left nothing but a vapor trail for middle linebacker Neal Olkewicz to grab and simply ran away from cornerback Anthony Washington. From the near end zone it looked as if Allen was being pursued by the cavalry. In a footrace that included Redskins cornerback Darrell Greenthe officially recognized "NFL's Fastest Man"Marcus Allen was never touched.
"It was the best run I've had in the NFL," the game's MVP said of what was at the time the longest run from scrimmage in Super Bowl history. "I didn't think of what to do. I just let instinct take over."