John Allen, 76

John Allen, 76, dies; played for the Redskins from 1955 to 1958

John Allen played for the Redskins from 1955 to 1958 as a backup center and linebacker.
John Allen played for the Redskins from 1955 to 1958 as a backup center and linebacker. (Nfl)
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By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 11, 2010

John Allen, 76, a center for the Washington Redskins in the 1950s who later became a leading salesman for the business supplies company Pitney Bowes, died March 3 at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda. He had Alzheimer's disease.

Mr. Allen played for the Redskins from 1955 to 1958 as a backup center and linebacker who specialized in making long snaps for punts and field goals. After his playing career, he was president of the Redskins Alumni Association and helped organize many of the group's charitable activities.

Mr. Allen became a popular banquet speaker and was a fixture for many years at an annual preseason luncheon at which former Redskins were introduced to the current team. He planned charity golf events for the Redskins Alumni Association and helped organize the group's efforts in support of the Special Olympics.

In 1969, he was a pallbearer at the funeral of Redskins owner George Preston Marshall at the National Cathedral.

John McKee Allen was born June 4, 1933, in Monmouth, Ill., and grew up in Fremont, Ohio. He went to Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., on a football scholarship and participated in the 1954 East-West Shrine all-star game.

After graduation, Mr. Allen -- who was often called "Johnny" in his playing days -- was drafted in the eighth round by the Redskins in 1955. He was listed at 6-foot-2 and 224 pounds and spent four years with the team under coach Joe Kuharich.

Mr. Allen was primarily a backup to starting center Jim Schrader before being traded to the Detroit Lions in 1959. He was cut from the roster before the season began and released by the San Diego Chargers after trying out for the team in 1960.

During the offseason, Mr. Allen sold vacuum cleaners and worked as an aide on Capitol Hill. He began his business career in the Alexandria office of Pitney Bowes in 1962 and sold automated mailing equipment and meters to businesses. He won dozens of awards as one of the company's top salesmen and trained other members of the sales staff before retiring in 1994.

Mr. Allen was a longtime Adelphi resident and, in retirement, volunteered with Meals on Wheels. In addition to being a frequent guest speaker at athletic banquets, he was a longtime supporter of what is now the Beltsville-Adelphi Boys and Girls Club, as well as the booster club at High Point High School in Prince George's County, where his son Vinny Allen was a standout football player.

During the last few years of his life, Mr. Allen received assistance from the 88 Plan, a program sponsored by the NFL Players Association that offers financial and medical support to former players suffering from dementia and Alzheimer's disease. (It was named for former Baltimore Colts tight end John Mackey, who wore No. 88.) Mr. Allen's brain and spinal cord tissue were donated to the Boston University School of Medicine for research on possible links between football and brain injury.

His marriage to Pauline Lee Allen ended in divorce.

In addition to his son, of Silver Spring, survivors include two other children, Victoria L. Allen of Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, Calif., and Dirk L. Allen of Philadelphia; and three granddaughters.

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