Dallas' ton of fun Looming large: Pound for pound, the Cowboys' huge offensive line is the best in football and certainly the most entertaining.

January 26, 1996|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Former Dallas quarterback Steve Beuerlein once took the Cowboys' offensive line out for dinner. Total cost: $2,000.

And they didn't get dessert.

"There are only certain places we can go in Dallas as a group to have a meal," said right guard Larry Allen. "A lot of restaurants don't have enough to feed us. We'll go to any place that has enough food."

They grow things big in Texas, especially offensive linemen. The Cowboys have the biggest (average weight 321.6 pounds) and the best (four Pro Bowl players) in the league, and their hefty drive blockers are so famous that they have a spokesman, 320-pound left guard Nate Newton, "The Kitchen."

The other starters, with weight and nicknames: right tackle Erik Williams, 324 pounds, "Big E;" Allen, 326, "Odd Job," from the character in the James Bond movie "Goldfinger;" center Derek Kennard, 333, "Big Baby," as in Huey; left tackle Mark Tuinei, 305, "Pineapple," because he is Hawaiian.

Say goodbye to the days when the Cowboys had a superb line of Pat Donovan (255) Herb Scott (250), John Fitzgerald (260), Tom Rafferty (250) and Rayfield Wright (260).

Thin is out. Fat is in.

"Ten years ago, no one thought a 300-pounder could move and survive in the NFL," said Newton. "Ten more years from now, we're going to see 400-pounders. If they can run, we'll take 'em."

Hudson Houck, the Cowboys' offensive line coach, said, "You can find a lot of big athletes that are OK, but not many can move like our linemen can."

Or eat. Or dance. Or talk. The Big Five are drawing as much attention at Super Bowl XXX as the Big Three: Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin, quarterback Troy Aikman and running back Emmitt Smith.

Allen is drawing distinction as the game's best lineman, Williams as the dirtiest since Conrad Dobler and Newton as the self-proclaimed "America's latest sex symbol."

On Tuesday morning, all five put their nearly one ton of humanity on a bowed aluminum bench for Picture Day, flexing their pecs and bulging their bellies.

"We wear our uniforms tight so people can see our sexy bodies," said Newton. "Linemen always complain that they don't get enough publicity, but once you get here, you might as well get as much as you can get."

Newton has been living it up. He and Allen have been riding around Tempe in a $1,000-a-day stretch limo, and Newton has been sporting baseball caps advertising his new 900 number.

The other linemen don't mind Newton grabbing the attention. It's a close-knit outfit, one that meets one evening a week to digest meals and exchange jokes.

"Actually, we just sit around and play dominoes or something like that," said 6-foot-7, 331-pound backup tackle George Hegamin. "Then we'll go out to eat. It's 11 of us. Boy, you don't want to see our food bill."

Who eats the most?

Newton: "Oh, I guess I'll eat about four orders of sausage, and then four orders of bacon with four eggs. That's my midnight snack."

Hegamin: "My man Baby [Tuinei], he can put it away. "I can't even start to tell you how much he eats at one time. I'm just glad we get discounts."

Clothes are hard to find, too. Hegamin, for example, wears an XXXL shirt. He has a 44-inch waist and a 64-inch chest.

And he's one of the smallest ones, naturally. Two years ago, Newton was shipped off to a fat farm. So was Allen. Both were close to 400 pounds.

"I get asked about the health risks all the time," said Newton, who has hired a nutritionist. "Ask me that when I'm 65."

The Cowboys don't play soft. They run extra wind sprints after practice, and they have nasty attitudes.

"I found out that it takes more than technique and weight," said Allen. "You've got to be mean and nasty. When I first got here, Big E was just beating up people, just killing them. We feed off of him. I said to myself, that's how I want to be. And I knew that's what I had to do to be successful."

The line is one reason that Dallas' offense has not changed over the years despite having three different coordinators. The game plan is simple: run Smith from tackle to tackle. It's smash-mouth football, and Dallas does most of the smashing with an average of 137.6 rushing yards.

But the style, combined with some questionable tactics lately, -- have earned the Cowboys the reputation of being dirty.

The Steelers plan to fight back. They also plan to use run stunts to offset Dallas' size.

"It's key that we stop Emmitt and their running attack," said Steelers linebacker Greg Lloyd. "They have a tendency to wear people down in the fourth quarter.

"But we don't need all that extra stuff going on. If we have to spit, we'll spit. When they punch, we'll counterpunch. And if we have to bite, we'll bite."

Said Newton: "We do shove extra sometimes, we do play hard, we do play physical.

"If physical ball and shoving right up to the whistle and blocking right up to the whistle is playing on the edge, then I think we play on the edge every game."

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