Jared Allen used the “Power of the Mullet” to become one of the NFL’s most charismatic athletes, but now the legendary defensive end is well and truly on the attack with the sport of curling. What started out as a joke among friends soon turned into an ultracompetitive reality when the Texan fell head over heels for the game they call ‘chess on ice.’
Eager to find out more, M&F caught up with the record-breaking sacker to find out how it’s all going.
“It started as a bet, and I never welch on a bet… although I probably should,” jokes Allen of his unlikely transition from the gridiron to the ice rink. Initially, he had high hopes of making a name for himself on the PGA tour, but eventually came to the honest realization that he wasn’t up to par.
Undeterred, Allen happened to see a story on Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, the unlikely Olympian ski jumper from England, and he was inspired to find a sport that he might be even worse at and then try to take it all the way to the Olympic Games. “The reward isn’t worth the cost, I’ll tell you that much,” laughs Allen while reflecting on his newly chosen sport.
As a former NFL superstar who played with the Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, and Carolina Panthers during his 12-year career, the money available via winners purses or sponsorships in Curling is a far cry from the riches of the NFL. Still, it was never the money that drew Allen to curling in the first place. It was, of course, the chance to reconnect with his buddies and get his game face on once again. “I think I just enjoy the competition of it,” he says. “I enjoy learning something new .. I’m just kind of the personality that once I’m in, I’m all-in. And so, we are trying to accomplish the goal of qualifying for the (2024) Olympics.”
How to Play Curling
- Curling is a team sport where the four players work together in order to slide a granite stone into the target area that is at the end of a long strip of ice known as the “pitch.” The winning team is the one that moves their stones down the pitch and closest to the middle of that target area, otherwise known as the “house.”
- In all, 16 stones are sent down the ice by each team during 8 games.
- Points can only be awarded when a stone is within the bounds of the house.
- Teams can knock opposing stones out of contention with their own stones.
- Points are awarded based on each team’s ability to get their stones closest to the center of the house and this is scored cumulatively across all of the 8 games.
While curling often looks like a relatively gentle exercise, it is important to note that the stones weigh around 40 pounds (18 kilograms) and it takes great effort to move them. The stone is initially sent out by the thrower who actually pushes the stone into the desired direction. “Sweepers” then follow the stone and attempt to influence the journey of each stone by warming the ice and reducing the resistance that the stone will face.
How Jared Allen Improved His Curling Skills
In March of 2018, Allen put his first curling team together, and they found themselves on the losing end of all four games at the World Curling Tour event that same year. For an elite athlete like Jared Allen however, throwing himself into the deep end and losing to Olympic level curlers was the perfect introduction to the sport. Since then, and with a constantly evolving team, this sporting icon has qualified for several national competitions, and is eager to reach the Olympics himself.
“I’ll tell you what, it’s a different type of competition than I’m ever used to,” Allen says. “Obviously, the physical side of learning; how to slide and be on ice, but just from the mental (aspect), it’s like chess on ice, right? So, there’s a bunch of strategy to it, so it’s been a fun challenge, I can’t complain, and we are enjoying the process.” While Allen has fallen flat on his face several times, he’s always got up stronger and wiser for the next go around. Competing in the Grand Prix Bern Inter 2023 in Bern, Switzerland, Allen’s team showcased exceptional skill and teamwork, culminating in their victory in the Consolation-Cup 2023. His persistence, adaptability, and commitment has brought great admiration from within the curling community and beyond. New eyeballs are finding the sport thanks to Allen’s involvement, and it is a lot tougher than it looks.
Sweeping, for example, is a great test of cardiovascular endurance. “And, you’re trying to stay balanced on ice, right?” says Allen. “So, yeah, sweeping back and forth, I mean you’re leaning on that broom, you’re putting a lot of force, a lot of weight on there. The physical side of it was more than I thought it was going to be. I often walk away completely wiped out. By the first day, your muscles are smoked, so Biofreeze has been my friend,” he adds, laughing
While some athletes struggle with retirement, Allen, who was one of the most fearsome rushers in NFL history, has been able to use family and faith to see him clear. In addition to his curling “hobby,” Jared Allen champions the Homes for Wounded Warriors initiative, providing accessible mortgage-free homes to combat veterans. “A lot of guys do run into that (difficulty with retirement), I think it’s more because that’s where they find their identity, right? They don’t have anything outside of that, whereas I find my identity in Christ, and family, and that kind of stuff … for me curling started out as something goofy, and now I’m just seeing it through.”