If you were to imagine the perfect course of an NFL career, it would be somewhat similar to the NFL career of Marcus Allen.
You would start by being named Rookie of the Year and then continue by winning a Super Bowl, being voted Most Valuable Player in the Super Bowl, and being awarded Most Valuable Player for an entire NFL season.
If you would face adversity on a team, you would go to another team and win the Comeback Player of the Year award.
Finally, after your retirement, you would be inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Allen achieved these accomplishments and more during an illustrious 16-year NFL career with the Los Angeles (now Las Vegas) Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs.
We take a look at the life of Marcus Allen – before, during, and after his NFL career.
The Early Years Through High School
Marcus LeMarr Allen was born on March 26, 1960 in San Diego, California.
Allen’s father, Harold “Red” Allen, was a construction foreman. Allen’s mother, Gwen, was a licensed vocational nurse.
Allen was the second of six siblings.
In describing his childhood, Allen stated:
“Together, my parents formed a rock-solid foundation for their children, teaching, advising, guiding, and always supporting. They saw to it that each of us understood the importance of education and discipline. We sang in the Calvary Baptist Church choir, went to Boy Scout meetings, were taught to do homework before we played, and learned quickly that if rules were broken, discipline would quickly follow. My father was a firm believer in the ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’ principle. . . . I grew up in a loving environment, watched over and encouraged by both of my parents, learning their lessons of right and wrong. And, most important, the value of family.”
Sports were important to Allen when he was growing up.
When playing football in the backyard, Allen would copy Cleveland Browns running back Leroy Kelly.
Allen’s father would take Allen to Balboa Stadium to watch the San Diego Chargers play.
Lincoln High School
Allen attended Lincoln High School in San Diego from 1975 to 1978.
At Lincoln High School, Allen lettered in baseball, basketball, track, and football.
Following in the footsteps of his brother, Harold, who played middle linebacker in high school, Allen wanted to play defense in high school.
Allen got his wish during his sophomore year when he became a starter at free safety.
Allen played on the defense his sophomore and junior years and was named to the All-California Interscholastic Federation team after his junior year.
His senior year, Allen became a two-way starter at quarterback as well as safety.
Allen’s high school coach, Vic Player, said about Allen:
“Despite all his talent, Marcus was never a prima donna. He worked hard, always trying to improve himself.”
Helped by Allen’s play in Allen’s senior season, Lincoln High School both scored over 500 points, establishing a new county record, and set records for most shutouts by a team and fewest points allowed to opponents.
Allen led Lincoln High School to the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Section 2A championship in 1977. In the championship game on December 9, 1977, Allen scored five touchdowns (four on rushes of 30, 85, 20, and 10 yards, and one on a 60-yard interception return), as Lincoln High School defeated Kearny 34-6.
Speaking of Allen, who rushed for 195 yards in the championship game, Kearny’s coach Tom Barnett said:
“I’ve never been in awe of any athlete who ran against our defense. As the game went on, I said, ‘There is no way we’re going to stop that guy.’”
Even more importantly for Allen’s future, University of Southern California (USC) assistant coach Hudson Houck said of Allen’s performance in the championship game:
“That was the most incredible individual effort I’ve seen by a high school player.”
Allen was named CIF Football Player of the Year in 1977.
Allen was also selected to the Parade All-America, Scholastic Coach All-America, and National High School Coaches Squad All-America, teams.
In addition, the San Diego Tribune named Allen the schoolboy athlete of the year.
I’m out here with another Elder experiencing housing insecurity who used to play ball against Marcus Allen 🏈 and pick up games with Billl Walton 🏀 and baseball with Alan Trammel ⚾️ when he was younger. Wow just wow. #SanDiego pic.twitter.com/bZtX1zv9L2
— Amie Zamudio (@amie_zamudio) October 5, 2020
USC actively recruited Allen, and, after considering scholarship offers from many major colleges, Allen decided to attend college at USC.
USC had recruited Allen to be a defensive back, but USC head coach John Robinson switched Allen’s position to running back.
It turned out to be a great decision.
As a freshman, in 1978, Allen saw limited action, playing behind USC running back Charles White.
In 13 games, Allen rushed 31 times for 171 yards and one touchdown.
Allen saw more action in 1979, starting for the Trojans at fullback.
Allen served both as a blocking back for eventual Heisman Trophy winner Charles White and as a running back on his own.
— InsideUSC (@InsideUSC) February 13, 2019
In a 24-17 USC victory over Washington on November 10, 1979, Allen scored the winning touchdown on a 10-yard run.
In 1979, playing in 12 games, Allen rushed 114 times for 649 yards and eight touchdowns.
His 5.7 average rushing yards per attempt was second in the Pac-10 in 1979 (only surpassed by his teammate Charles White).
Allen also caught 22 passes for 314 yards and returned three kickoffs for 46 yards in 1979.
With Charles White’s graduation, Allen became the starting tailback for the Trojans in 1980.
On October 4, 1980, Allen rushed for 133 yards on 36 rushing attempts and scored on a two-yard touchdown run, as USC defeated Arizona State 23-21.
In describing his play during the 1980 season, Allen said:
“Ever since I came to USC I’ve known what the tailback position here was all about. You’re a key; you’re supposed to be able to do certain things; and everybody on the opposition knows you’re going to get the football a lot because that’s the way the system works. But my approach has been to make sure that I did the basic things that counted – like holding onto the football and learning to use my blockers. To me running is a lot like painting. You have to let it flow – you know, look for the openings and then let things happen naturally.”
In 1980, in 11 games, Allen led the Pac-10 with 1,563 rushing yards on 354 rushing attempts. Allen also led the Pac-10 with 14 rushing touchdowns in 1980.
Allen also caught 30 passes (leading the Trojans) for 231 yards and one touchdown in 1980.
For his play in 1980, Allen was voted first-team All-Pac-10 by the Associated Press, second-team All-America by United Press International, and third-team All-America by the Associated Press.
Allen had an even better season in 1981 than in 1980. In fact, Allen’s 1981 season was one of the best seasons any running back ever had in college football history.
Allen started the 1981 season by rushing for over 200 yards in five consecutive games – 210 yards in a 43-7 win over Tennessee on September 12, 1981, 274 yards in a 21-0 shutout of Indiana on September 19, 1981, 208 yards in a 28-24 victory over Oklahoma (then ranked second in the nation in the Associated Press poll) on September 26, 1981, 233 yards in a 56-22 defeat of Oregon State on October 3, 1981, and 211 yards in a 13-10 loss to Arizona on October 10, 1981.
Later in the 1981 season, Allen rushed for over 200 yards in three additional games – 289 yards in a 41-17 victory over Washington State on October 31, 1981, 243 yards in a 21-3 win over California on November 7, 1981, and 219 yards in a 22-21 defeat of crosstown rival UCLA on November 21, 1981.
After the Washington State game, in which Allen also scored four touchdowns, Washington State coach Jim Walden stated:
“Stars make offensive lines, lines don’t make stars. When Marcus cuts, it’s not the line, it’s him. He’s a bona fide great football player. He makes his line. He would be a great running back behind my line, and we’re not as good as theirs.”
For the 1981 season, playing 12 games, Allen led the nation with the highest rushing yards ever recorded in a college football season at that time (and currently the fourth highest) – 2,427 yards on 433 rushing attempts. Allen also led the nation with 22 rushing touchdowns in 1981.
Allen also caught 34 passes (again leading the Trojans) for 256 yards and one touchdown in 1981.
For his play in 1981, Allen was considered the most outstanding player in college football and was awarded the Heisman Trophy.
On this day in 1981, USC RB Marcus Allen was on the cover of Sports Illustrated!
Allen would finish the season with 2427 rushing yards and a total of 23 touchdowns🔥@MarcusAllenHOF pic.twitter.com/pG96L7R2qG
— Sports Illustrated Covers (@classicSIcovers) October 5, 2019
Allen also won the Maxwell Award and the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award in 1981.
Allen also was named the 1981 Pac-10 Player of the Year and voted consensus first-team All-American by each of the American Football Coaches Association, the Associated Press, the Football Writers Association of America, United Press International, the Football News, the Gannett News Service, the Newspaper Enterprise Association, The Sporting News, and the Walter Camp Football Foundation.
According to John Robinson, Allen was “the greatest player I ever saw”.
In addition to Allen’s individual accomplishments, Allen helped USC have team success, as the Trojans finished with records of 12-1 (second in the final Associated Press poll) in 1978, 11-0-1 (second in the final Associated Press poll) in 1979, 8-2-1 (11th in the final Associated Press poll) in 1980, and 9-3 (14th in the final Associated Press poll) in 1981.
After his great college career at USC, Allen headed to the NFL.
The Pro Football Years
Allen was drafted in the first round of the 1982 NFL draft by the Los Angeles Raiders (the 10th overall selection).
— AFL GODFATHER (@NFLMAVERICK) April 27, 2020
Allen was happy to be drafted by the Raiders, with their franchise relocating in 1982 from Oakland to Los Angeles. Allen could stay close to his southern California roots.
“It was kind of like destiny in my coming here, growing up in San Diego and playing at U.S.C. It was just the way it was supposed to happen. It was destiny.”
As a rookie in 1982, Allen immediately started at running back for the Raiders.
In his first regular-season game, on September 12, 1982, Allen scored his first NFL regular-season touchdown on a three-yard run, as the Raiders defeated the defending Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers 23-17.
Allen rushed for 116 yards on 23 rushing attempts and caught four passes for 64 yards in the game.
In 1982, Allen led the NFL in all of rushing touchdowns, total touchdowns (14), points scored (84), and yards from scrimmage (1,098).
Dec 1982 Marcus Allen toasts Seattle for 156 yards rushing on 24 carries and a 6.50 avg. Allen also scored 2 touchdowns in the Raiders 28-23 victory at the @lacoliseum #RaiderNation @MarcusAllenHOF pic.twitter.com/pMNVvVBRMd
— Raiders History (@Oaklraiders1976) June 27, 2020
He was also named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press.
Allen was invited to his first Pro Bowl in 1982 and voted first-team NFL All-Pro.
Allen followed his excellent rookie season with an even more impressive season in 1983.
While Allen had a solid regular season in 1983, his year will always be remembered for his outstanding playoff performance in 1983 (starting all three Raiders’ playoff games).
First, on January 1, 1984, Allen rushed for 121 yards and two touchdowns (on four-yard and 49-yard runs) on 13 rushing attempts, as the Raiders (after winning the AFC West Division title in 1983 with a 12-4 record) defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 38-10. Allen also caught five passes for 38 yards in the game.
Next, in the AFC championship game on January 8, 1984, Allen rushed for 154 yards on 25 rushing attempts and caught seven passes, including a three-yard touchdown pass from Raiders quarterback Jim Plunkett, for 62 yards, as the Raiders defeated the Seattle Seahawks 30-14.
Finally, in Super Bowl XVIII, on January 22, 1984, Allen probably had the most memorable game of his NFL career, leading the Raiders to a 38-9 victory over the Washington Redskins.
(1984) @MarcusAllenHOF ran 74 yards for this great touchdown in Super Bowl XVIII 🔥#marcusallen #marcus #allen #nfl #losangelesraiders #losangeles #raiders #lasvegasraiders #lasvegas #americanfootball #run #touchdown #superbowl pic.twitter.com/Q4bG38VJRF
— In The Showcase (@intheshowcase) September 3, 2020
Allen, who was named Super Bowl Most Valuable Player, rushed for 191 yards (then a Super Bowl record and currently second in Super Bowl history) on 20 rushing attempts and caught two passes for 18 yards.
Allen scored two touchdowns in the Super Bowl, on runs of five yards and 74 yards (the longest run of Allen’s NFL career).
Allen’s 74-yard run (also then a Super Bowl record and currently second in Super Bowl history) is considered one of the iconic plays in Super Bowl history; Allen started left on the play, but then made a reverse cutback before sprinting through the middle of the Redskins defense for the touchdown.
President Ronald Reagan, when calling the Raiders locker room after the game, commented:
“I have already got a call from Moscow. They think Marcus Allen is a new secret weapon and they insist that we dismantle it.”
While the Raiders were unable to defend their Super Bowl championship in 1984, Allen had another outstanding season.
In 1984, Allen led the NFL in total touchdowns (18) and ranked third in the NFL in rushing touchdowns and fourth in the NFL in yards from scrimmage (1,926).
— Travis (@559RAIDERTravis) April 2, 2020
Allen was invited to his second Pro Bowl in 1984.
In addition, Allen was voted second-team All-Pro by the Associated Press and the Newspaper Enterprise Association, and first-team All-Conference by Pro Football Weekly and United Press International, in 1984.
Other than possibly 1983, 1985 was Allen’s best year in the NFL.
In 1985, Allen was named NFL Most Valuable Player by the Associated Press.
Allen also was named NFL Most Valuable Player by the Pro Football Writers of America and Offensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press in 1985.
Dec 1985 Marcus Allen contribute most of the Raiders yardage on offense in a 16-6 win over the Rams. Allen was a Swiss Army Knife at RB.
24 carries for 123 yards & 8 rec for 25 yards
— Raiders History (@Oaklraiders1976) April 7, 2020
Allen was invited to his third Pro Bowl in 1985.
He was also voted first-team NFL All-Pro in 1985.
In addition, Allen was voted first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press, the Pro Football Writers of America, the Newspaper Enterprise Association, and The Sporting News, and first-team All-Conference by United Press International, in 1985.
Raider teammate and Pro Football Hall of Famer Howie Long said the following about Allen in 1991, but it likely generally could have applied to how Allen was viewed after the 1985 season:
“Mentally and physically he is the toughest guy I’ve ever played with in my 11 years. He is probably the most versatile running back in the N.F.L. in the last 9 to 10 years. Ask any linebacker in the N.F.L. what running back they’d hate most to cover and it’s Marcus. And the guy is an absolutely phenomenal blocker.”
Allen played seven more seasons with the Raiders, but, for several reasons, was unable to match his outstanding success in 1985.
First, as is the case with many running backs, injuries (including ankle and knee injuries) began to take their toll on Allen’s performance.
Second, the Raiders began to bring in other running backs, including Eric Dickerson, Roger Craig, and Bo Jackson.
— Jeff Mans (@Jeff_Mans) July 8, 2020
While Allen was an excellent blocking back, his role in touching the ball out of the backfield for the Raiders offense was reduced.
Damn the late 80’s Raiders had Marcus Allen AND Bo Jackson in the same backfield. 😧 pic.twitter.com/Sn1alNrkbL
— Tucker Bowman (@tbow2) March 28, 2020
Third, and probably the reason for the second issue described above, Allen began to feud with Raiders owner Al Davis.
Due to a combination of a contract holdout by Allen, a lawsuit for free agency by Allen, and Davis’ ego being threatened by Allen’s individual success, Allen found himself in Davis’ “doghouse”.
Speaking about Al Davis during his last year with the Raiders in 1992, Allen stated:
“What do you think of a guy who has attempted to ruin your career? He told me he was going to get me and he has. . . . I think he tried to ruin the latter part of my career, tried to devalue me and tried to stop me from going to the Hall of Fame.”
Notwithstanding these issues, Allen still had certain excellent games during his remaining years with the Raiders.
Allen was invited to his fourth Pro Bowl in 1986.
In 1986, Pro Football Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott (who roomed with Allen at USC) said:
“When I prepare for the Raiders, I prepare for Marcus Allen. I know that every, every, every play, he can beat you.”
Allen was invited to his fifth (and fourth consecutive) Pro Bowl in 1987.
Allen’s numbers significantly declined in 1989, as he played in only eight, and started only five, regular-season games.
In 1989, Allen rushed for 293 yards and two touchdowns on 69 rushing attempts and caught 20 passes for 191 yards.
Allen had a much better season in 1990.
Allen ranked fourth in the NFL in 1990 in both rushing touchdowns and total touchdowns (13).
Similar to his performance in 1989, in 1991, Allen (who played in only eight, and started only two, regular-season games) rushed for 287 yards and two touchdowns on 63 rushing attempts, caught 15 passes for 131 yards, and completed one pass for 11 yards and a touchdown.
For Allen individually, similar to in 1991, 1992 was a season of limited performance.
In 1992, Allen, playing in all 16 regular-season games, but starting none of them, rushed for 301 yards and two touchdowns on 67 rushing attempts and caught 28 passes for 277 yards and one touchdown.
Allen was co-winner (with Raiders cornerback Terry McDaniel) of the Raiders’ Commitment to Excellence Award in 1992, “voted on by the players . . . presented annually to the Raider who best exemplifies hard work, leadership, and excellence on and off the field throughout the season.”
It was the fifth time that Allen won or shared winning the Commitment to Excellence Award, but it was to be Allen’s last year in Oakland.
On June 9, 1993, as a free agent, Allen signed three one-year contracts with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Allen was excited to join the Chiefs, stating:
“You’d have to be crazy not to take advantage of an opportunity to play with Joe Montana. I want to go to the Super Bowl and Kansas City does, too. Hopefully, I can help them get there.”
While the expectations for a 33-yard old running back who had limited production three of his last four seasons were low, Allen was optimistic.
“The last couple of years I haven’t had much enthusiasm, and it showed in my play. Believe me, there’s a lot left. You’ll see.”
Allen’s optimism proved correct, as his NFL career had a renaissance with the Chiefs.
Allen led the NFL in rushing touchdowns and ranked second in the NFL in total touchdowns (15) in 1993.
The Chiefs won the AFC West Division title in 1993 with an 11-5 record and advanced to the playoffs where Allen started and scored a touchdown in each of Kansas City’s three playoff games.
In 1993, Allen was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America.
Fond memories covering the Joe Montana/Marcus Allen @Chiefs for @KOMUsports (the local NBC television affiliate) while in college, plus the fact that I’m a Missouri native have me rooting for KC! #ChiefsKingdom pic.twitter.com/A7cBVLYE3A
— Pete Scribner (@ScribSports) February 2, 2020
Allen was invited to his sixth and final Pro Bowl in 1993.
In addition, Allen was voted first-team All-Conference by Pro Football Weekly and United Press International in 1993.
Chiefs head coach Marty Schottenheimer, who called Allen the “most complete back in NFL history”, also said:
“When I reflect back on all of the players I have seen play the game both as a player and a coach I don’t think I have seen a better football player than Marcus Allen. . . . He is a guy who down after down, game after game, runs, blocks, catches, subordinates his own self-interest to that which is the best interest of the team. He may not have a bigger fan than me. I think Marcus Allen is as fine a player as has ever played the game.”
Allen continued to be a solid producer for his remaining four years with the Chiefs.
He retired after the 1997 season.
On Allen’s retirement, Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson said:
“Every time he scored a touchdown, there was no dance, there was no demonstration. He simply handed the ball to the official and said, ‘I’ll be back real soon.’ . . . When he came to us in 1993, it was my personal hope that he would play three years. To our great satisfaction, he has given us five outstanding years.”
The Years After The NFL
Allen married Kathryn Edwards in 1993.
The couple divorced in 2001.
Allen was age 53, in 2014, when his son, Drake Connor Allen, was born (the mother was Allen’s girlfriend, Lauren Hunter).
After his retirement, Allen worked as a football broadcaster for CBS Sports from 1998 through 2005.
Allen later also worked for the NFL Network.
In 1999, Allen was inducted in the San Diego Hall of Champions Breitbard Hall of Fame.
Allen was inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame in 2000.
In 2001, Allen was inducted in the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.
Allen was inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003.
August 3, 2003 #Raiders great RB Marcus Allen was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“… I’ve been blessed, but my father always told me not to forget that there was someone out there better. So I worked really hard. I didn’t take it for granted.” – Marcus Allen pic.twitter.com/R5gyEEcMzR
— AFL GODFATHER (@NFLMAVERICK) August 3, 2020
He was presented for induction by his father.
Allen’s biography on the Pro Football Hall of Fame website includes the following quotation from Allen:
“From the first day I played I knew I was better than the other guys. As a kid, you sense you can run faster or catch a little better. You can sense it, but you don’t think about it. You recognize some things are coming easier to you. I used to ask myself ‘Why?’ Now I just accept it. I’ve been blessed, but my father always told me not to forget that there was someone out there better. So I worked really hard. I didn’t take it for granted.”
In 2007, Allen was inducted in the California Sports Hall of Fame.
In 2014, Allen was named to the CIF 100th Anniversary Fall All-Century Team.
While Allen left the Raiders on bad terms with Al Davis, in recent years, Allen was been welcomed back by the Raiders.
After the death of Davis, his son, Mark, invited Allen, and Allen agreed, in 2012 to light the eternal flame honoring the senior Davis at the Raiders’ stadium.
Saying that Allen’s return “meant a lot to my mom”, Mark Davis (now owner of the Raiders) also stated:
“Throughout the annals of the Raiders history, the L.A. chapter was very unique. We had a lot of great players come through there. You think of the Howie Longs, the Branches, but Marcus was the leader of that whole group. He was the absolute true Raider. There are very few football players I’ve seen like him, that worked that hard.”
Allen is often asked whether he considers himself a “Raider” or a “Chief” today. Allen said:
“Most fans want me to pick one over the other, and I never do that. I embrace both teams. I enjoyed playing for both and I’ve had great experiences for both teams. So when they play each other I’m neutral, but when they’re playing someone else, I’m certainly rooting for both.”
Besides his famous 74-yard Super Bowl run, Allen has otherwise earned a place in NFL history.
Allen was the first NFL player to gain more than 10,000 rushing yards and 5,000 receiving yards in his NFL career.
Allen holds the NFL records for most consecutive seasons with multiple rushing touchdowns (16) and being the oldest player to score more than 10 touchdowns in a season (37 years old).
Allen ranks fourteenth in NFL history in career regular-season rushing yards (12,243), sixth in NFL history in career regular-season total touchdowns (145), and fifth in NFL history in career regular-season receptions by a running back (587).
There is no doubt that Allen’s rankings would be higher if not for his period of limited production with the Raiders (particularly in 1989, 1991, and 1992).
As heated rivals, there is not much upon which Raiders fans and Chiefs fans will agree.
One point upon which there is complete agreement is that Marcus Allen was a great football player.