Junior Seau of Oceanside High owns record for most Pro Bowls by NFL player from a San Diego High school with 12. Next on the list is John Lynch, a Torrey Pines High alum who announced his retirement following his ninth Pro Bowl season in 2007. Those two totals will be tough to match for future San Diegans, but before they chase Seau or Lunch, they have to catch up to an impressive trio tied for third.
One of them is Eric Allen, a Point Loma High alum that enters the Breitbard Hall of Fame with the Class of 2009 as a six-time Pro Bowler. The others are Lincoln alum Marcus Allen (no relation), a Pro Football Hall of Famer and Breitbard Hall of Famer, and another Point Loma High alum, La’Roi Glover.
“Everywhere I’ve been I’ve always told people about the history of great athletes that come out of San Diego,” said Allen, who works for ESPN as a NFL analyst. “To go into the Hall of Fame and have my named mentioned with all those great athletes is a great honor. The influences of this city helped me have the career I had, and to be recognized this way brings me back to square one.”
Allen, who also was the 1993 NFC Defensive Player of the Year, played cornerback for 14 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles (1988-94), New Orleans Saints (1995-97), and the Oakland Raiders (1998-2001).
His 54 career interceptions ranks him 18th in NFL history. He is the only NFL player to run back three or more interceptions for scores in two seasons. His career high eight interceptions in 1989, but in the 1993 season he returned four of his six thefts for touchdowns.
The Breitbard Hall of Fame is merely his latest career honor. In 2007, Allen was named to the Philadelphia Eagles 75th Anniversary team. In 2008, he was inducted into the Arizona State University Hall of Fame.
Allen came out of ASU as a second-round draft pick in 1988 after he was first-team All-Pac-10 pick and honorable mention All-American. As a sophomore in 1985, he enjoyed a homecoming game in the Holiday Bowl, although the Sun Devils lost to Arkansas, 18-17.
At Point Loma High, he played for the late Bennie Edens, a legendary figure in San Diego high school sports who had passed away in 2008. Allen was an All-CIF running back an defensive back who led the Pointers to a CIF San Diego Section 2A co-championship in 1982.
“When you’re a kid playing high school football, you look for mentors,” Allen said. “He was that kind of coach. It wasn’t just about football with him. He expected you to conduct yourself properly off the field and represent the community. That gave me and others that played for him a jump-start in being respectful and understanding value of hard work.”
Allen said he also learned patience from Edens, recalling an example of how he expected to be promoted to the varsity as a sophomore, but wasn’t. “His stance was you had to wait your turn to play varsity, and it didn’t matter how good you were,” Allen said. “Some of us tried to convince him otherwise, but he stuck ito his guns. Later you understood the value of delayed gratification. You respected it even more when you put that varsity letter on your jacket.”
Ironically, Allen enters in the same Breitbard Hall of Fame Class of 2009 of another important figure in his life, Floyd Robinson. As a teenager, he worked as a stock clerk at Robinson’s liquor-grocery store on Market Street. “Everyone knew him as a great baseball player that owned a business,” Allen said. “He was a male role model of stability in my life. He was doing the right things and I learned from him in our conversations. He taught me about modesty and respect. I could score a couple of touchdowns, but I still had to stock the shelves at his store.”
One other important figure in his life extended his NFL career four more seasons. When the Saints traded Allen to the Raiders before the 1998 season, his first reaction was to retire rather than play for a team that was struggling and a Chargers rival, which was hard for a kid that loves San Diego’s sports teams. But at the time, Willie Shaw, one of the legendary athletes to come out of San Diego High who later recruited Allen to Arizona State, was with the Raiders as an assistant coach.
“He told me we were going to turn things around,” Allen said. “He was a guy I trusted, and that swung me around to keep playing.” And that allowed him to keep adding to a Hall-of-Fame career in San Diego sports.