Minnesota defensive force has straightened out his priorities, but he'll still be a scary sight when the Seahawks host Minnesota on Sunday.
Jared Allen showed up to work Wednesday at the Minnesota Vikings practice facility in full Halloween gear, which has become an annual tradition for one of the free spirits in the button-down NFL.
A few years ago, while with the Kansas City Chiefs, Allen donned a Speedo and goggles to represent Michael Phelps — an unsettling sight for a guy 6 feet 6, 270 pounds.
This time, Allen wore what an amused Vikings coach Leslie Frazier termed “some hippy outfit.” Allen saw it as so much more than that: “It was emo. It was very, like, modern-day hipster emo skinny jeans guy … I would have fit right in at the coffee shops in Seattle.”
Allen, now 30 and fully established as one the greatest pass-rushing defensive ends in NFL history — his 22 sacks last year were just a half-sack behind Michael Strahan’s 2001 season record — is still a wild and crazy guy.
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The only difference is now he limits his fun to such socially acceptable activities as knocking the stuffing out of opposing quarterbacks, and thrill-seeking activities like running with the bulls in Spain, boar (and bear) hunting, sky diving and zip-lining.
He’ll be attempting to partake of the former Sunday when the Vikings meet the Seahawks, who know that slowing down Allen’s pass rush is a prime focus.
“He’s long, lanky with a knack for getting sacks,” Seahawks center Max Unger said. “You have to know where he is and what he’s doing all the time out there.”
The other stuff, well, it’s what makes life worth living for Allen. In his younger days, the carousing wasn’t nearly as harmless. He had a few brushes with the law, including two DUIs within five months in 2006 that led to a 48-hour stay in county jail in Kansas.
Earlier, Allen had been accused of taking yearbooks during his junior year at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, Calif. The upshot was that he was forced to transfer to Los Gatos High School for his senior year and lost most of his scholarship offers. Among the schools that backed off was Washington, his first choice.
“That’s where I wanted to go,” he said. “That’s where I verbally committed. Then a frickin’ yearbook scandal later, I’m going to Idaho State.”
It was shortly after the DUIs Allen had an epiphany, hastened by a stern lecture from his beloved grandfather, Ray Allen. According to the San Jose Mercury News, the former Marine told his grandson, “You’re screwing up the family name” and “It’s time to be a football player only. You can’t be the town drunk.”
Allen stopped drinking and says he changed his priorities. He also gives credit to former Chiefs coach Herm Edwards for aiding what Allen calls his “growing-up process.
“You can’t just think you’re in high school and college, running around doing dumb stuff, and people are going to constantly overlook it. You’re responsible for your actions.”
Getting married and having a little girl last October drove the point home further.
“As I get older, you get back to what your foundation is, and for me, it’s faith and God,” he said. “Meeting my wife and having a baby, the steps it allows you to take, and being responsible for something greater than you, it really puts perspective on life.”
Meanwhile, Allen has remained a pass-rushing force, undeterred by nearly constant double teams. Earlier this season, he was asked if opponents were blocking him differently.
“No. They’re still using human beings,” he replied.
And that’s not always sufficient. Allen has averaged 15 sacks over the past five years, and reached the halfway point of this season with seven. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll calls Allen “a war daddy,” which seems to be high praise.
“He can do it all,” Carroll said. “He does it physically, he does it with quickness, he does it with finesse. He’s a rare football player.”
Rare in his ability, and in his exuberance.
“He’s not a guy who’s going to be standing in the corner quiet,” said Frazier, who added, “I love his personality, but there are times where I do have to say, ‘Hey, Jared … ‘ “
But not nearly as often.
“I don’t know if I’m calmer,” Allen said. “I still have the ability to get vicious on somebody. But you keep it all in perspective in the realm of what’s right and what’s wrong. At the end of the day, I always look at it this way: Football is the last thing I want to be remembered for. I want to be remembered for being a great husband and a great father.”
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.