Predicting the annual vote for the Pro Football Hall of Fame is a risky proposition. There are always surprises. Most people thought Bill Parcells was a lock last year, but he didn't get in. Cris Carter has been a finalist four times only to be denied.

No doubt there will be a surprise or two Saturday when the Class of 2013 is announced. But in my mind there is one sure thing: Larry Allen will be among the chosen. It is his first year of eligibility and he should not be kept waiting. Wave him right in.

Allen is not as well known as other modern era finalists. He doesn't have the TV credits of Michael Strahan, a catchy nickname like Jerome "The Bus" Bettis, or the larger-than-life personality of Warren Sapp. But in my opinion, Allen is the best player on the ballot and that should be enough.

Allen is a great story, a survivor who rose above the gang culture of Compton, Ca., who went to four different high schools and found his way to tiny Sonoma State, a Division II college where he arrived with all his belongings in two garbage bags. He started his climb from there.

Sonoma had only three full-time coaches, a stadium with no lights and just one set of bleachers. On a good day, they drew maybe 1,000 fans, but as word spread about this massive lineman who was pancaking people left and right, NFL scouts began showing up. Soon they were filing glowing reports.

By the time the 1994 draft rolled around, all the pro teams had the 6-3, 325-pound Allen on their board. Some projected him as a first-round pick, but that was probably a stretch given his background. He was flattening opponents at Sonoma, but he outweighed most of them by 60 pounds. It would be a different story in the NFL.

Allen fell to the second round where the Dallas Cowboys, at the urging of offensive line coach Hudson Houck, selected him with the 46th pick. Houck had studied film on Allen and worked him out at the combine. He told head coach Jimmy Johnson that Allen could be as good as Erik Williams, another small college lineman they drafted and developed into a Pro Bowler. Johnson took Houck at his word.