Photo by: Immo Wegmann on Unsplash
The more you look into the career of former NFL defensive end Jarred Allen, the more questions you’re left with.
For example, what kind of serious athlete wears the number 69 for their entire career? Certainly not someone who played 11 seasons of strong football in the NFL. Or, who rode a horse onto the U.S Bank Stadium field for his induction into the Minnesota Vikings ring of honour. Probably not one who has multiple All-Pro and Pro-Bowl appearances.
It’s sometime in 2017, presumably, and Allen is asking a lot of questions about his career. He has just finished announcing his retirement on Twitter by posting a video of him—quite literally—riding his horse into the sun (you may notice a theme with the Texas native), and, at 34 he feels a little aimless.
Many athletes struggle to adjust to retirement, especially well-paid, high-profile ones like Allen. At the end of his football career, and feeling listless, Allen needed a solution to his retirement problem and, thanks to a wager with an old friend, he found one: don’t retire.
Sounds simple enough, but for a defensive player on the wrong side of 30, there aren’t many NFL general managers knocking down your door, even if you aren’t concerned about your own well-being at this point in your career.
Allen needed a different sport, preferably low-impact. After watching the movie about the British ski jumper, Eddie the Eagle, Allen also wanted something a little less common. His choice was curling.
At this point you’re probably questioning why you should care, and a valid one considering I also don’t really care about the post-retirement athletic pursuits of NFL players. Except, of course, when they’re good.
Allen, not content with simply finding something to occupy his time, needed a challenge, and thus the bet was born: Jarred Allen was going to win Olympic gold.
The first and largest hurdle for Allen was obvious in that he had never actually curled before. Picking up the stone for the first time later that year, you could be forgiven for laughing at Allen’s elaborate plan to avoid spending time at home.
“I thought curling was going to be a lot easier than it was,” said Allen to the Star Tribune, “But I’m one of those guys who, once I start something, I’m going to see it through.”
Fast forward to February, 2023, and Allen is right in the thick of the U.S.A. National Curling Championships, an event that determines the American representative for the World Championships and an essential step on the way to the Olympics.
According to Allen, “Our goal at nationals is to beat as many teams as we possibly can and see where we land.”
Allen’s team is skipped by Jason Smith, who represented the States at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, and also features former LA Rams QB Marc Bulger. The team at one point also featured two other former NFL-ers, Keith Bulluck and Michael Roos.
The tournament couldn’t have started any better for team Smith, taking all of the first three matches. In fact, team Smith actually took down team Shuster in the first game of the tournament. Shuster is the first American to ever win Olympic gold in curling, which he did in 2018, roughly the same time at which Allen began curling.
Unfortunately, 3-0 was as good as they would get, going 0-4 the rest of the way. While they may not have advanced, Allen and his team certainly showed they belonged, and that they could have more to offer in the years coming. And, with the next winter Olympics not until 2026, team Smith has plenty of time to work on their game.