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In Jared Allen's world there's a versatile, every-down word, and the word is badass. Allen usually pronounces it BAD-ass, which is how most people say it. Clint Eastwood is still a BAD-ass. But sometimes, when Allen is trying to make a point, he will say bad-ASS, as in Guys in the 1980s who wore mullets were bad-ASS. Every now and then Allen will emphasize both syllables, as if it were two words. Extra gravy is always BAD ASS. ¶ A football player can be a badass, of course. The old Los Angeles Rams star Jack Youngblood was a badass. "He played a whole game with a broken leg," Allen, like Youngblood, a defensive end, shouts. "I mean, think about that. How much of a badass was Jack Youngblood? I'll tell you: He was a serious badass." Serious badass, of course, trumps regular badass.
Many of the old-timers—Jim Marshall, Carl Eller, Dick Butkus, Jack Lambert, Brent Jones—are badasses in Allen's world. Those are the players who made him want to play football, who made him think it would be fun to hit people. Those are the players who inspired an eight-year-old Jared to tell his father, Ron, a tough old rancher, that he was going to be an NFL star.
Ron's advice: "Well, you better bring it, or you're going to get your ass kicked."
But it's important to note that a person does not have to be physically tough to be a badass in Allen's world. A waiter in a Mexican restaurant who brings Allen extra food is definitely a badass. A couple who shows up during his radio show decked out in Vikings outfits are badasses. The neighbors who shovel their driveways in -10° cold: Yeah, they're badasses. "Winter sucks, man," Allen says. Overcoming anything that sucks equals, yes, badass.
There are people who you might think would be badasses but are not—like left tackles all around the NFL who need double teams to block Allen. "These guys are supposed to be such badasses," he says, "and they're getting help?" He rolls his eyes. Allen never rolls his eyes at real badasses.
Sometimes Allen will use a less flattering meaning of badass, as in I've done a lot of stupid stuff. Hell, I got my badass thrown in jail. He has lived a purposefully wild life. He got thrown out of his high school. He got thrown out of bars. He got thrown out of a college game. He got traded from the team that drafted him after picking up two DUIs in five months—that's what got his badass thrown in jail in 2007.
And there's something else that's badass, something Jared Allen never saw coming. He's getting married in a few months. He has moved into a new five-bedroom house in the suburbs. He goes to Bible study on Thursdays. He has a big contract, he has respect, he has people showing up at the Baja Sol restaurant in Eden Prairie, Minn., six or seven hours before his radio show to get a seat, just so they can catch a glimpse of him. He is playing the best football of his career and is one of the most dominant defensive players in the NFL today. His team finished the season 12--4 and is the second seed in the NFC playoffs. Life, he says, feels a bit more ordered.
"I'm growing up, you know," he says.
Who would have thought maturity could be badass?
Jail was not badass. Jared Allen sat in his best friend's car—it's been almost three years now—and he looked out the window, and it was dark, man, really dark, in part because it was February but also because, hell, he was almost 25 years old and he was an NFL star and his friend was driving him to jail. He had to serve two days after that second DUI. Two days of jail time may not seem like much for a badass, but it's enough to make a man reevaluate.