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On Top Of The Heap, As Always
Jill Lieber
September 01, 1986
Marcus Allen won the Heisman in college and MVP honors in the NFL. The Los Angeles Raiders' running back is, relentlessly, the best
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September 01, 1986

On Top Of The Heap, As Always

Marcus Allen won the Heisman in college and MVP honors in the NFL. The Los Angeles Raiders' running back is, relentlessly, the best

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"I said, 'Lyle, what are you doing?'

"And Lyle, with his eyes bugging out, said, 'I'm going to kill you!'

"I said, 'I don't care. I'm not afraid of you.' "

That's when Long stepped in. "Lyle knew there was no excuse for something bush like that," Long says. "I told him to go sit on his helmet and relax. I also told Lyle that he was real stupid—that he could never beat Marcus Allen.

"Marcus is like something out of a Monty Python movie. You cut the guy's leg off, he keeps coming. You cut his other leg off, he's still coming. You cut off his arms, chop up his torso, and he keeps after you."

Harold (Red) Allen Sr., 52, is a wiry man, about 5'10", with bandy legs and a tiny chest. His straw cowboy hat and thick-heeled cowboy boots make him seem much taller. His massive forearms are the product of 35 years as a contractor—slinging hammers and pouring concrete.

"I'm part Indian," Red says in his peppery Texas drawl. "My mother and my father each had some in them."

When Red was nine, his father died. Three years later he had his Social Security card and was working odd jobs to help support his mother and 10 brothers and sisters. He quit school in the 12th grade to enlist in the Navy.

Red and Gwen Allen, 47, have been married 28 years. Gwen is delicate and gentle, with a serene spirituality about her. For 15 years she worked as a night nurse in a convalescent home. Marcus and his four brothers and one sister (Harold Jr., 27; Damon, 23; twins Michael and Michelle, 21; and Darius, 8) were raised in a predominantly black neighborhood in southeast San Diego. The family still lives in a three-bedroom stucco house that Red built in 1963.

When Marcus was very young, Red bought the kids Shetland ponies named Peanuts and Sandy, and after school he would give neighborhood kids rides up and down the canyon next to the house. In the backyard, Red built a basketball court, complete with floodlights for night games. Gwen, meantime, signed the boys up for the Calvary Baptist Church choir, piano lessons, Boy Scouts. Above all else, she insisted that they study.

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