Vikings Legend Jared Allen no longer weathers the Minnesota winters, but he’s been plenty active on the ice nonetheless.
Allen, who officially retired from the gridiron in 2016, recently has gotten serious about the sport of curling and is gaining quite the following.
In November, Allen and former NFL quarterback Marc Bulger teamed up with professional curler Hunter Clawson and former Olympian John Benton and had the opportunity to compete against the Olympic gold medalists, Team Shuster, at the Curl Mesabi Classic in Eveleth, Minnesota.
Allen took to the ice again this week, joining Team Persinger/Ruohonen as an alternate for the 2019 USA Curling National Championships in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
“I can’t thank Team Persinger/Ruohonen enough for inviting me to come out to the Nationals tournament,” Allen said. “It means the world for me to learn from the defending champs and hopefully making a [title] defense, so anything I can do.
“It’s kind of funny, though. From being on the field every play to now I’m sitting on the bench,” he added. “Hopefully I can be like the practice squad guy who gets the ring at the end.”
According to the Bemidji Pioneer, Allen made his national championship debut during Tuesday’s round-robin play. The former Pro Bowler subbed in for Phil Tilker at lead in the sixth and final end of a 9-2 win over Sam Strouse’s rink.
“He’s been great support for the team, and it was a great chance to get some ice time,” Tilker said.
Rick Ruohenen told Allen he might have to “pick it up a little bit next time” after shooting 50 percent.
“But no, we’re not treating him any different, and we told him that: ‘We’re going to give you just as hard of a time as [anyone] else, so I hope you can handle it, and I hope you don’t pound us into the ground.’ ”
Allen is no stranger to some good-natured ribbing, and he graciously took some grief from teammates following the game.
Colin Hufman joked that Allen didn’t follow instructions.
“It was all his fault. I told him, ‘Pull off a little bit,’ and he added way too much on his first one. … It was pretty embarrassing,” Hufman quipped. “We’re going to have a players-only meeting after this and discuss his future with the team.”
Allen said that curling has been a great learning experience – as well as a humbling one.
“I’m a little embarrassed about the first shot,” he said. “My own pride said I was putting it right on top of the 4-foot [ring], then I was going to hit ’em with a little bit of stanky leg [dance], but it didn’t happen.”
So after a successful NFL campaign, why did Allen get back into competition?
“I think as you get older, you have to always challenge yourself. I like it,” Allen explained to WOOD TV in Kalamazoo. “You never stop reading, right? People say that reading keeps your brain young. I know business men that are constantly saying, ‘You’ve made a bunch of money; why are you still working?’ And it’s about the activity of challenging yourself with something new.”