Jared Allen made a name for himself sacking NFL quarterbacks, totaling 136 sacks in 12 seasons in the league. But it turns out that wearing a bunch of pads and playing on Sunday afternoons wasn’t the only successful thing that Allen wanted to achieve in athletics. In fact, he had much bigger goals — like reaching the Winter Olympics in Curling, which all got started because of a bet with a friend.
Yep, just when you thought you’ve seen it all, Jared Allen — who’s up for possible induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2021 — decided to ditch his helmet for a curling broom, trying to maneuver his 270-pound frame around a thin sheet of ice in hopes of becoming an Olympian. It’s not going to be easy, but Allen, and a few other former NFL players like Marc Bulger, Keith Bullock and Michael Roos, formed an All-Pro curling team together to try and make it happen.
The team has found themselves competing at high level competitions over the past year or so, even going head-to-head with former Olympic gold medalists on previous events. And, while Jared Allen knows winning the bet and reaching his Winter Olympics goal won’t be easy, he’s up for the challenge to prove anyone who might be doubting him wrong.
So how did Jared Allen decide on Curling? How did the bet with his buddy happen? Would he be more proud to make the Winter Olympics or Pro Football Hall of Fame? We sat down with Allen to get the inside scoop on this wild journey he’s on.
Shut Up & Hustle: OK, Man, I’ve Gotta Ask: Why Curling?
Jared Allen: “Oh, man, well the short answer is that it’s one of the few sports that we haven’t dominated in, and the other answer was that, because most people don’t start playing till in their 40s, where the winners and losers buy beer, I figured I’d have an athletic advantage; where, no matter if I won or lost, I’d still get to drink some beer. So it was kind of a win-win.”
Shut Up & Hustle: Did You Have An Interest In The Sport Prior To Walking Away From The NFL?
Jared Allen: “Not really. I mean, I watched it during the Winter Olympics, but, I didn’t know much about the sport, you know? Originally, my buddy didn’t think I could become an Olympian. And, after initially looking at Badminton, I landed on Curling, so I just kind of dived right in after that.”
Shut Up & Hustle: So This Whole Thing Really Came From A Bet You Made With A Buddy, Huh? Is He Getting Nervous That You’re Gonna Prove Him Wrong?
Jared Allen: (laughs) “Well he’s not there yet, but, I think, once we can qualify for Nationals, then maybe he’ll start to get a little nervous. But, right now, he still think he’s going to win the bet. Hey, I like that, though, because he’s still all in and not trying to weasel out.”
Shut Up & Hustle: Over/Under 10 Beers Consumed When You Made That Bet?
Jared Allen: (laughs) “Oh, no, it’s all legal man.
“It came from a former golf event a couple years ago, when I told my buddy that, within three years of retiring from the NFL, I’d qualify for a PGA Tour event. Unfortunately, when you’ve got a wife and family, you can’t spend every waking hour out on the golf course. About two years after I retired, I convinced him to give me a run in another sport.
“So, yeah, it’s all legal, because, if everyone was impaired, the bet wouldn’t be legal.”
Shut Up & Hustle: What’re The Details Of The Wager?
Jared Allen: (laughs) “Well, he’s going to have to pay me a large sum of money. If I don’t reach the Winter Olympics, then I’ll have to pay him a large sum of money.”
Shut Up & Hustle: What Made You Become More Serious About The Sport? It’s Pretty Different From Trying To Knock The Snot Out Of Guys On The Gridiron.
Jared Allen: “It’s definitely different than football, but, to me, that’s what makes it fun, because it puts you in a different element. So, for all of us, that adrenaline and intensity will always work for us, but now, Curling is sort of like putting in golf, where you’ve got to shoot the stone, elevate your heart rate and calm yourself down.
“From an athletic standpoint, it’s all about body control, heart rate control and calming yourself down when you’ve got a hard shot. But that’s what is fun about it, because we’ve got a challenge that’s totally different from football, something totally out of our realm from what our comfort zone would be, so it forces us to fine tune certain aspects of our athleticism.”
Shut Up & Hustle: What’s Been The Hardest Part About Picking Up The Sport?
Jared Allen: “The strategy, more than anything. Yeah, there’s a mental side, obviously, and, from a physical side, you give me a few years to train and prepare, I’ll be good to go there. But the strategic side, when it’s actually a lot of fun, it’s absolutely the hardest.
“We’ve got some former Olympians helping us shorten our learning curve on all that stuff, though, like helping us focus on shot-making and things. But, it’s just like any sort of competition; the more reps you have at it, the more muscle memory gets involved. So that’s sort of what we’re focusing on right now, so that we can be at the level we want.”
Shut Up & Hustle: You Formed This All-Pro Curling Team, Having Other Former NFL Players Like Keith Bullock, Marc Bulger And Michael Roos Join Your Squad: What Were Their Reactions When You Approached Them With The Idea?
Jared Allen: “They were all in it from the get go, which was awesome. We all want to be the best at what we do, so we all really ramped it up and, after we got invited to be on a couple National teams, it evolved from there, with me even winning a silver medal in Nationals.
“Last year, when we formed this thing, we sort of threw ourselves into the deep end of the pool to see what the different levels of competition looked like. We had our ups and downs, but now, coming into this year and the next couple years, there won’t be many surprises.”
Shut Up & Hustle: I Know John Benton, A Former Olympian, Is Your Coach; How Influential Has He Been In Your Development?
Jared Allen: “From the physical technique standpoint, that’s been key, along with the strategy. Now that we have the technique and all that, it’s just a matter of repetition and getting the job done.
“But, in the beginning, John gave us that confidence to build off of. I mean, we had never stood out there before, or had thrown a stone, so he gave us the foundation and built us from the ground up.
“John’s very much a technician guy, which is what I always was in football, so it’s nice to be able to relate to somebody on that, or get another set of eyes when something just doesn’t feel quite right.”
Shut Up & Hustle: Was There A Moment When The Curling Community Thought, ‘Oh, Shit, These Guys Are Pretty Good’?
Jared Allen: “Well, one thing about the Curling community that people might not know is that everyone is so welcoming. So, the first time I think people took notice was literally the first time we showed up with John (Benton) and Hunter Clawson to an event. That’s when we sort of had everyone’s eyes, when they realized we had good slide form and good releases.
“I don’t think anyone’s nervous, but, above everything, they can see that we’ve put in the work. We had only been Curling for five months at that point, and after Mike (Roos) and I went to Nationals and qualified, people saw the intensity and dedication we brought to it. I mean, Mike was just smashing people there, and we were just able to practice each day, so everyone saw the effort and intensity; even if we weren’t always getting the results we wanted.
“So, the idea that we were just coming in just to goof around, and use our popularity to screw around, that notion was gone pretty fast. I think people saw how hard we were working, which is why we’re excited about this year coming up, because it’s been a good summer of long weekend camps, and I’m able to work with my coach everyday here in Lake Tahoe, so we’ll go out there and see we’re where at.”
Shut Up & Hustle: You Used To Train With The Marines, Navy SEALs, And Army Rangers During Your NFL Career, What Would It Mean To Rep Your Country In The Winter Olympics?
Jared Allen: “To be honest, I never dreamed of that until this bet came about. It would be the most satisfying thing on the face of the earth, just to see it all come to fruition. The thing is, there’s no timetable on this, so, even if we don’t make it in 2020, we can, technically, still go for it in 2024, right? (laughs).
“Look, you’ve got to set lofty goals for yourself. I used to tell my dad when I was eight that I was going to play in the NFL, so you’ve just got to have a high mountain to climb. For curling, we want to set short-term goals first — like qualifying for Nationals this year without going through challenge rounds — and then just keeping to take it step by step. It’s all about consistency and getting down the technique.”
Shut Up & Hustle: We Kind Of Talked Earlier About The Differences Between Curling And Football, But What Similarities Are There With Football; Other Than The Competition?
Jared Allen: “It’s definitely the mental side. I mean, if you have one bad shot, you can’t let that become two or more bad shots. So it’s being able to avoid holding onto that. It’s like that ‘next play’ mentality in football.
“As for the physical standpoint, it’s just having the ability to sustain and control your body, having good cardio throughout the match. Playing two games a night, we want to make sure we have that physical endurance.
“The most common similarity between football and Curling, though, is that you’ve got to have that mental toughness. Whether it’s a 30-play drive in football, or the ability to overcome a 4-1 deficit in Curling, you’ve got to be able to compartmentalize things and never get too high or get too low.”
Shut Up & Hustle: What If This Doesn’t Happen For You? What Else Do You Want To Do In Life?
Jared Allen: (laughs) “Hey, then I’ll have to write a check.
“Technically, we don’t have a timetable, so, even though my buddy says it has to be this coming Winter Olympics, we’ll see. Since there was never a timeframe on it, maybe I can just go double or nothing if we don’t make it happen in 2020.”
Shut Up & Hustle: You’re Up For Hall Of Fame Induction In 2021, What Would Be A Bigger Accomplishment For You: A Bust In Canton Or Becoming A Winter Olympian?
Jared Allen: “Oh goodness, that’s a tough one. Probably the bigger accomplishment, at this stage, would be becoming a Winter Olympian. But, what would mean more to me? I mean, I dedicated my life to football. I played every year since I was eight years old, so, if I’m blessed enough to get to Canton, then that’s kind of a lifelong accomplishment. I think I can finally say that I’m alive.
“From a lifetime standpoint, Canton would be an amazing feat and would mean absolutely the world to me… (laughs) and is probably the more probable.
“I mean, I’m willing to do anything to get the job done, but that same feeling of never feeling satisfied. Never feeling like I ever arrived. If we make the Winter Olympics, I’m sure there will be quite the celebration, and I’d hold onto that forever.”