Talk about a career 180!
Jared Allen spent 12 years in the NFL, but now he’s trying to make it all the way to the Olympics in a very different sport: curling.
The five-time Pro Bowler, who retired in 2016, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that his interest in curling began over a year ago, when one of his friends made a bet with him that he “couldn’t become an Olympian.”
“It was kind of just talk, and then I started looking at some of the sports I thought I’d be capable of doing. I was actually looking at badminton at first, and then it kind of transpired into curling. That’s kind of how everything got started,” he told the newspaper.
Joining him in his quest for a ticket to the 2022 games in Beijing are fellow former NFL players Marc Bulger, Keith Bulluck and Michael Roos.
In March, shortly after the bet was made, Allen reached out to the retirees — who all live in Nashville — to see if they’d be willing to take on the challenge together.
“I threw the idea out there like, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if a group of former NFL players tried to make the Olympics in curling?’ They all said, ‘Yes,’ ” he told the Pioneer Press.
In a nod to their former days of glory on the football field, the four men call themselves the All Pro Curling Team.
Although Allen admits to the outlet that the idea of “a group of retired NFL players taking up curling at a competitive level” may sound ridiculous, the professional athletes take the sport “really seriously.”
“We aren’t coming in to disrespect the curling world. We just want to be a part of it,” he added to the Pioneer Press.
Despite their years as professional athletes, none of the group had any experience with the wintertime sport, so they hired former Olympian John Benton to teach them the ropes — and although Allen was initially confident that curling would be easy to pick up, he told the newspaper that he found it to be surprisingly difficult.
“The biggest shock was how much core strength it takes to get the slide down correctly,” he shared with the Pioneer Press. “It takes a while. It’s a bit awkward at first, and we all fell a bunch. Just getting the technique down was the biggest surprise. Now it’s about learning strategy and learning muscle memory and stuff like that.”
Allen told TMZ in a separate interview, “You have to sweep a lot. … I’ve been known for my cardio, sweeping is frickin’ tough!”
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After a year of practice, Allen and his teammate Bulger will face off on Friday at the Curl Mesabi Classic against a stacked team, including John Shuster, a member of the group who went down in history earlier this year as the first U.S. men’s curling team to ever win Olympic gold.
Of course — they’ll have a little help as the pair will be teaming up with their coach and professional player Hunter Clawson.
“We have nothing to lose,” Clawson told Pioneer Press of the match. “Nobody expects us to do anything. Hopefully we leave some people pleasantly surprised.”
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