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300 Games Later, Paul Allen Still 'All In' with the Vikings

It's 2:32 a.m. when Paul Allen pulls out his phone to text Harrison Smith.

The two are on separate, eerily quiet bus rides from the airport to Winter Park after a tough road loss. While most passengers sneak a quick nap en route, Allen works to tie up loose ends for his 9 to Noon show on KFAN that will begin in less than seven hours.

*Is an 11:40 call-in a possibility for tomorrow? *

Not quite a minute later, the stark glow of a received text illuminates the iPhone screen. Smith is in for the call, no problem.

It's not the kind of relationship you might expect between a player and media member, but for Allen, in his 15th season as "Voice of the Vikings," it's different.

"I think the key is that they know they can trust me," Allen said of the players he's developed such a rapport with. "They know I genuinely care about them and the team."

Monday night's matchup at Chicago marked the 300th game Allen has called.

"I'm very proud of it, to be able to work with one team for that long," Allen said.


Over the years, Allen has been approached with various outside opportunities – including national – for play-by-play work. He's never even considered them.

"I'd much prefer to have the intimacy and single-minded nature of one team, to feel like I'm part of this team," Allen said. "If they win a big game, or if they lose a tough one on the road, I'm in that. I'm feeling the emotions of that."

Added Allen: "I wouldn't have the sweat equity with one team and one family that I have now."

It's that family-like bond Allen has with the Vikings that enables him to send middle-of-the-night text messages to Smith or exchange sideline quips with Chad Greenway at practice.

"We have a trust with him," Greenway said. "He's a card-carrying [media] member, and he's got interviews to do, and he has his job to do. But at the same time, he has a good understanding [of his relationship with the team].

"As players, from what we hear and what we see and read, and then when we talk to him, we kind of get a feel that he's really a part of what we're doing here," he added.

Greenway has known Allen for his entire 11-season run with the Vikings and said he's one of the best in the business, from his ability to call a game to his constant awareness of the team.

"He's so passionate about what we're doing, and I think that makes it easier for him," Greenway said. "It's great having a guy like him as a part of our organization and to be so good."


First time's the charm

For a man without a college degree, Allen's story is an unlikely one. He doesn't expect the journey to ever be replicated.

"I started out as a newspaper writer, who became a racetrack announcer, who became a radio talk-show host, who became a play-by-play guy," said Allen, whose current positions with KFAN and the Vikings are the first gigs he landed in either field.

Allen initially auditioned for the play-by-play job in 2001 and didn't make the cut. He left an impression, however, and when the position again opened in 2002, Allen was the man for the job.

And while he hasn't always been in the radio booth, the emotion and high energy that make up Allen's calling card is nothing new. It was those qualities that made Allen's first day on the job memorable.

On Sept. 8, 2002, Allen's first-ever called game for Minnesota, the Vikings were at Chicago to face the division-rival Bears. Just before halftime, Vikings linebacker Talance Sawyer recovered a Jim Miller fumble. True to form, Allen celebrated.

He forgot, however, that he was tethered.

"I jumped out of my chair, and I pulled all of the microphone and headphone cords out of the outlet," Allen recalled. "We temporarily went off the air because of how excited I was."


Brett Favre to Greg Lewis … and everything in between

Allen hasn't lost a bit of that contagious energy over 300 games, and he's racked up quite the highlight reel of play calls.

One moment that every Vikings fan remembers well also tops Allen's list: the Brett-Favre-to-Greg-Lewis touchdown in Week 3 of the 2009 season. Lewis made his debut catch as a Viking against the 49ers, a leaping grab at the back of the end zone as the clock wound down, and the game-winning play is one not easily forgotten.

Equally memorable is Allen's call: Oh my heavens! Greg Lewis, welcome to Minnesota!

Just before the play, Allen remembers giving the Vikings receivers a cursory look as Favre approached the line of scrimmage.

"Through the grace of God, I knew Lewis was in the game," Allen said. "When Favre fired into the end zone, I knew it was Greg Lewis. I look back at it thinking, 'What if I didn't know it was him?' That would have ruined the moment.

"That's my favorite touchdown call probably ever," Allen added.

Other highlights of Allen's time in the booth include two playoff games: when the Vikings traveled to Lambeau Field in 2004 and became the underdog victors, and when Minnesota hosted Dallas for the divisional round of the playoffs in 2009.

The week leading up to the Cowboys-Vikings matchup, Allen remembers Dallas defensive players "talking a lot of trash."

"Brett Favre, who didn't say much and never would fire back in the media, clearly was very cognizant of what they were saying," Allen said, "because he threw five touchdown passes that day."

When Favre connected with tight end Visanthe Shiancoe for score number five, Cowboys linebacker Keith Brooking charged at the Vikings bench, attempting to instigate a brawl.

"The decibel level in the Metrodome that day was seriously the loudest thing I have ever heard," Allen said. "More than anything in my life, and that includes being next to a jet."  


It never feels like work

Being the "Voice of the Vikings" in addition to hosting 9 to Noon and calling races at Canterbury Park can be a grind, but Allen doesn't see it that way.

"It never feels like work," said Allen, who sometimes spends hours at Winter Park waiting for a brief, quick-hitting interview. "Whether I'm doing TV interviews, radio interviews, watching practice or getting ready for a game, it never is work. I've never looked at it like that."

Allen's "busy season" stretches from mid-May to the end of the Vikings season. It's not uncommon for Allen to work seven days a week during that time, but you'll never hear him complaining.

"You have to compartmentalize all the emotions into a short period of time and live every experience, positively or negatively, absolutely to the hilt," Allen said. "So you don't feel like you miss anything."

According to Allen, the only way to do his job is to dive in head first. Win or lose, the Vikings are Allen's family, and he can't imagine life without them.

"When you invest yourself into your profession the way I do, the cliché would be 'all in,' " Allen said. "I mean, I'm all in with this team."

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