East Lansing – Former Michigan State All-American running back Eric Allen, who was voted Big Ten MVP in 1971, died Tuesday at Tidelands Hospice in Georgetown, S.C., at the age of 66.
As a senior, Allen set then-NCAA single-game records for rushing yards (350) and all-purpose yards (397) against Purdue. He finished that season leading the Big Ten in rushing (1,494 yards), rushing TDs (18) and scoring (110 points), becoming the first player in league history to crack the 100-point milestone. His 1,283 rushing yards against Big Ten opponents also set a league single-season record.
Allen, who finished 10th in the Heisman Trophy voting, ranked among the NCAA top 10 in rushing TDs (tied for fifth with 18), yards from scrimmage (fifth with 1,769) and rushing yards (sixth with 1,494). He ranked second on the team with 18 receptions for 275 yards (15.3-yard average) and returned nine kickoffs for 193 yards (21.4 average). Allen accounted for a then-MSU record 1,962 all-purpose yards as a senior.
“I almost felt guilty because I literally had to hold my block for only a second and he was gone,” said former teammate and guard Joe DeLamielleure. “It was like being asked to babysit when the kids were already asleep. He was so shifty, like a rubber-band man. Eric ran wild against a Purdue defense that featured a number of great players, including Dave Butz, Gregg Bingham and Steve Baumgartner. All three of those guys became NFL draft picks.
“Eric had a couple of nicknames, including ‘The Flea’ and ‘Easy.’ We called him ‘Easy’ because of his running style. He was such a peanut, but he wouldn’t back down from anyone. Eric almost had a split personality. He was so friendly off the field, but he was so little, yet so tough. Eric was a great team player; he was never concerned about individual honors.”
The Georgetown, S.C., native recorded seven 100-yard rushing games in 1971.
Allen finished his career as MSU’s all-time leader in rushing attempts (521), rushing yards (2,654), rushing TDs (28) and all-purpose yards (4,446). Today, Allen still ranks among the school’s top 20 in all-purpose yards (seventh), rushing TDs (tied for ninth), total TDs (tied for ninth with 30), rushing yards (11th), rushing attempts (12th) and scoring (tied for 18th with 182 points).
Allen was selected as a wide receiver by the Baltimore Colts in the fourth round (No. 104 overall) of the 1972 NFL draft. Allen opted to play in the Canadian Football League and spent four years with the Toronto Argonauts (1972-75).
Born May 18, 1949, Allen is survived by his mother Rebecca Allen, brothers Nathaniel Allen and Phillip Allen, and sister Ruth Naomi Allen.
Arrangements are being completed by McKnight Fraser Funeral Home. Visitation is scheduled for Sunday from 5-7 p.m. at Walter S. Fraser Memorial Chapel in Georgetown. The funeral service will be held on Monday at 1 p.m. at Bethel A.M.E. Church (417 Broad Street) in Georgetown, with burial at Morning Glory Cemetery.