NFL Hall of Fame Finalist Jared Allen’s 2nd Sports Career Began as a Dare; Now He’s Going to the 2023 National Championship

Throughout his peak years in the NFL, Jared Allen was one of the most imposing defensive ends in the league. The defensive end combined excellence and longevity to such an extent that he is on the brink of making it into the Hall of Fame.

After retiring from football, Allen has turned to another, less heralded sport to satisfy his need to compete. The former gridiron star has taken up curling as his new passion, learning the game alongside other notable NFL retirees. 

Even for the most accomplished athletes, getting good at a new pastime requires trial and error. At first, Allen struggled to control the curling broom. But he recently announced that he hit a personal milestone in the game. 

Jared Allen, former defensive end of the Minnesota Vikings, celebrates as he is inducted into the Vikings' Ring of Honor
Former Vikings defensive end Jared Allen before he’s inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor | David Berding/Getty Images

Jared Allen was a dominant defensive lineman for nearly a decade

Allen’s dreams of a professional football career didn’t look bright after a high-school scandal involving stolen yearbooks scared off major universities from offering him a scholarship and forcing him to attend Idaho State. 

The Kansas City Chiefs drafted him in the fourth round of the 2004 draft. Allen became a starter during his first season and was named to the league’s All-Pro team in 2007 after leading the NFL in sacks with 15.5. 

A contract dispute compelled the Chiefs to trade him to the Minnesota Vikings before the draft in 2008. The Vikings then made Allen the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history up to that point, a distinction Allen more than lived up to during his six years with the team. He made the All-Pro team another three times and set the single-season franchise record for most sacks in team history with 22.

Allen then played for the Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers before retiring in 2016. He announced this with a video on his Twitter account of him literally riding into the sunset on a horse. On January 4, Allen was named one of the 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.   

Jared Allen picked up curling on a dare but developed a genuine appreciation for the game

Retiring from the NFL can be a challenging experience. It’s far too young an age to sit around and do nothing. But it’s hard to replicate the competitive intensity and locker room camaraderie in real life. Allen’s idea to cope with the large amount of time on his hands was to find another sport to explore. 

In 2018, a friend of Allen dared him to have a go at an Olympic sport. He told The Chicago Tribune that he initially considered badminton but decided it would be too much of an ordeal and chose to pursue curling instead. “It was chill, and the winners have to buy the loser’s beer,” he said. “We thought it was a win-win.”

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Allen didn’t attempt this new venture alone. He formed the All-Pro Curling team with former Rams quarterback Marc Bulger, Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck, and tackle Michael Roos — all former Pro Bowlers who lived near Allen in Nashville, Tennessee. 

The team had the humility to check their egos at the door. Their first move was to work with former Olympic curler Jon Benton on the basics of the game and holding practices several times a week. 

Allen is slowly but surely making progress on the ice

The All-Pros set the initial goal of making the 2022 Olympic team. But achieving that dream was easier said than done. The team spent their first few tournaments getting waxed by opponents with decades of curling experience. They didn’t let the losing discourage them, understanding that each defeat doubled as a learning experience for the mechanics and nuances of the ice. Allen’s ambition never wavered. 

“Even the worst team in the NFL every year says they want to win the Superbowl,” he said to the World Curling Federation. “Anyone who steps on the ice at a WCT event should have aspirations of making it to the Olympics because that’s the pinnacle of the sport. If you fall short, so be it.”

The former defensive end made his USA Curling Nationals debut in 2019, but he failed to qualify for nationals the first few years. Even as most of the other former NFL players lost interest in curling — although Bulger does like the sport enough to make a curling space in his sports bar, The Tee Line — Allen continued to play and finally got over the hump this year. In early February 2023, Allen will take part in the National Curling Championships.

It could be a landmark week for Allen. This year’s class of Hall of Fame inductees will be announced on February 9. Allen faces a stiff battle to get in. Only five players maximum can go in at once, and he needs 80% of the vote to get into Canton. But if Allen were that worried about the odds, he would not have committed to curling as much as he has.