- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"It's a lot more fun here," Allen says. "I don't know if it's more fun because we're winning or we're winning because it's more fun. And you know what? It doesn't matter."
Old Vikings are badass. Take Jim Marshall. The guy played in 270 straight games for Minnesota, the other defensive end with Eller on the famed Purple People Eaters defense. And as Allen will tell you, Marshall played in the days when the money was lousy, the rules were secondary and the only point was to win games.
Allen readily admits he does not live that kind of football life. In April 2008 he signed a six-year, $72 million contract with the Vikings, the largest ever for a defensive end. In addition to his popular radio show, Jared Allen Live, on KFAN in Minneapolis, and a weekly television spot on Fox Sports North, Allen appears on a syndicated hunting program. He has an interactive website (jaredallen69inc.com) with READY FOR A BAD ASS YEAR? leading off his journal. He has been gearing up for a career in the media after he's done playing.
But when Allen is on the field, he wants to play football like those old Vikings did. "What I like about Jared," Eller says, "is he does not have all those twirly moves you see from other defensive ends. That might help you get to the quarterback, but it doesn't make you an every-down player. Jared doesn't do that. He is old school. He takes on the blockers head-on. He works leverage. He tries to push the blocker back. He's an every-down player, and I love seeing that. You don't see that much anymore."
Teammates and fans feed off Allen's energy. "He's the perfect Minnesota guy," says Mike Mussman, Allen's cohost on Jared Allen Live. "Everybody relates to him. Sure, he's an outdoors guy, and he loves country music, and he's wild and funny. But I think what really makes people love him is that he plays so hard."
Allen has had many talks with Marshall about what it takes to go all-out on every play. He remembers one time when Marshall pointed up at the banners in the Vikings practice facility—four for conference championships but none for a Super Bowl victory—and said, "That's what should keep you going right there."
"Jared really understood what I was saying," Marshall says. "You can play football for money, and you can play football for glory—you can play football for a lot of reasons. But there's only one reason that will keep you going when you're exhausted and you're beat up and nothing is going right. And that is the guys playing next to you and the guys playing behind you."
Talking football is not badass. Even before their radio show debuted in September, Allen told Mussman that he wanted to talk football as little as possible. He happily would cover anything else at length—country music, cars, male thongs, rap, mullets, Sarah Palin, whatever—but he did not want to dwell on football. "I remember one segment we talked a lot of football," Mussman says. "I mean, hey, the guy's a football player and people care about the Vikings. When we broke for commercial he turned to me and said, 'Man, that was a lot of football. Let's move on.'"
At 27 Allen doesn't love football quite like he did growing up. He still loves game days, for sure, but the business is vicious and the weeks are brutal. "Every day," he says, "is like getting in a slow-speed collision."
There are other things in his life now that make him happy. He enjoys quiet evenings with his fiancée, Amy Johnson. Last April he traveled to Kuwait and Iraq on the NFL's USO tour. He's still funny and a little crazy, but it's under control. "The thing people don't appreciate about Jared is that he is smart—really smart," Mussman says. "Sometimes on the show the producers will worry that Jared's going to say something that goes over the line. I keep telling them, 'Jared knows exactly where the line is.'"