Gold Jacket Spotlight: Marcus Allen, a man of many firsts

Gold Jacket Spotlight Published on : 5/29/2023
From his time at the University of Southern California (1978-1981), until his 222nd game in the NFL, MARCUS ALLEN was known for his excellence on the field.

What the San Diego native might not be as well known for are the many firsts he accomplished during his playing career. Those firsts paved the way for Marcus' enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and into this edition of the Gold Jacket Spotlight.

In college, Marcus was originally slated to play safety alongside future Hall of Famer RONNIE LOTT. He flourished after transitioning to offense at USC and in his senior season, he rushed for over 2,000 yards, the first player in NCAA history to reach that milestone. He closed out his collegiate career with 2,427 rushing yards. 

For his performance, Marcus garnered the attention of the national media and was awarded the 1981 Heisman Trophy. 

His success would follow him to the professional level, as the USC graduate’s first four years in the National Football League saw him acquire more hardware than anyone before him. In 1982, Marcus was voted NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year after the strike-shortened nine game season. 

But that was just the start.  

In his third season, the Raiders defeated the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XVIII, led by Marcus’ 191 rushing yards. No player in the prior 17 years had even surpassed the 170-yard mark in the Super Bowl. JOHN RIGGINS had set the record for rushing yards at 166 just one year earlier. For his performance in the club’s third Super Bowl victory, Marcus was voted the Super Bowl MVP for 1984. 

Lofty expectations continued to surround Marcus, but he just kept doing his thing. The next season he posted a career best 1,759 rushing yards and 109.9 yards per game on the ground. His 447 touches and 2,314 total scrimmage yards were also career bests, eventually earning him NFL MVP honors. He became the first Raider to win the NFL rushing title after the 1985 season.

While the individual accolades came in bunches, the All-Pro back wasn’t focused on them. “This year I did some things individually, but we didn’t accomplish them as a team,” he said after the 1985 Raiders season, having led the league in rushing and becoming the first player to surpass 2,300 scrimmage yards (2,314). 

In five years of football, he earned a Heisman Trophy, Super Bowl Championship, Super Bowl MVP and an NFL MVP, the first and only player ever to claim all those titles. 

"The awards give me a great feeling,” he said in the same interview after the 1985 season. “But I probably won't appreciate them until I get out of football and am able to reflect on them."

After his performance in the Super Bowl, former President Ronald Reagan remarked at how lethal of a player Marcus was. On the postgame CBS broadcast, Regan told coach TOM FLORES, “I have already had a call from Moscow. They think Marcus Allen is a new secret weapon and they insist that we dismantle it.”

The 1988 season saw Marcus pass 10,000 scrimmage yards for his career, the first player in Raiders history to attain that mark. 

During the 1995 season, playing for the Kansas City Chiefs, Marcus continued to outpace his peers and his predecessors. In Week 13, he caught three passes for 33 yards, pushing his career total to 5,004 receiving yards. He became the first player in NFL history to gain more than 10,000 rushing yards and 5,000 receiving yards in a career. Since then, only two players have joined him on this list, MARSHALL FAULK and Tiki Barber. 

“Being the first guy to do something, I was definitely pleased by that,” he said, after reaching the milestone against his former team, the Raiders. 

"You could name 20 running backs who were bigger, stronger and faster, but you couldn't name two or three running backs who were as versatile,” said Hall of Famer HOWIE LONG, Marcus’ former teammate on the Raiders.

What fans might remember most about Marcus was his longevity. Despite being past what most considered the ideal age for an NFL running back, Marcus, entering his age 36 season, continued to reach unforeseen heights.

His 15th season saw him surpass 200 games played in a Week 10 game against the Green Bay Packers. He became the first running back in history to surpass that milestone.

It was only fitting that in his final NFL season he was still setting records. 

In 1997, his fifth season in Kansas City, Marcus became the first running back in history to play 16 seasons. In Week 12 of his final regular season campaign, he set one final mark on the NFL. Against the Seattle Seahawks, Marcus opened the game’s scoring with a 1-yard rushing touchdown. That touchdown made him the first to reach 120 rushing touchdowns for a career. He would finish the season scoring three more times, pushing his career total to 123. 

Upon his retirement, after 222 games, Marcus held 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). Both of which still stand today. 

Former Chiefs coach Marty Schottenheimer said after Marcus’ retirement, "If God put one person on this earth to be a professional football player, it would be Marcus Allen."