Following Super Bowl 50, NFL defender Jared Allen announced his retirement. He delivered the news on horseback before riding off across the snowy landscape like a character in “Silverado.” The 12-year veteran with 136 career sacks on his resume officially made the transition from fearsome defender to full-time family man.
“My philosophy in life is to always try to be present, be where you’re at, and enjoy that time,” Allen recently told Heavy in an interview. “And, you know, football was a great run, but I think I always knew that it was a means to an end. I’ve always reminded myself of that even if I were to play 15-20, some odd years. I mean, it’s such a small stint in your overall lifespan.
“Football was a huge part of me, it wasn’t all me. It was what I did. I was able to — once it was said and done — move on and enjoy other aspects of my life. You know, being a father is huge, a husband, philanthropy. And I try to approach everything with that same mentality. While it’s in front of you, take advantage of it.”
Since walking away from the league, Allen has remained busy with a number of pursuits. Being a loving husband and father is chief among them, but he also formed a competitive curling team and learned to wake surf. Of course, one of Allen’s biggest pursuits has been continuing to provide handicapped-accessible homes for wounded veterans through an organization, Jared Allen’s Homes for Wounded Warriors, that he started during his time with the Minnesota Vikings.
Giving back to those who fought for Allen’s freedoms
Allen took a USO trip overseas in 2009 and visited military bases across the Middle East. It was during this trip that he came up with the idea of Jared Allen’s Homes for Wounded Warriors. His goal with the organization was to say “thank you” to those that fought for his freedoms while making their lives easier after they returned home. He and Homes for Wounded Warriors achieve this goal by remodeling homes to make them more accessible.
Nearly 12 years later, the organization has given more than 20 homes to these wounded warriors while working with a trusted group of partners. Homes for Wounded Warriors is not a massive organization — Allen only has two full-time employees — but it continues to make an impact and benefit those most in need.
“Man [the journey] has been amazing,” Allen said. “I mean, from doing one remodel to maybe a house a year to… we constantly have anywhere from five to eight new home builds going. We’ve given 20 homes away. We have so many great partners from the Home Depot to the Army Rangers Lead the Way Fund. I mean, the list goes on and on. The United Brotherhood of Carpenters has been a phenomenal connection for us.
“And again, it never gets old to give someone a brand new home free and clear, who protects our freedom,” Allen continued. “And I think that the thing people don’t realize is none of this stuff comes free. You know what I mean? There’s a sacrifice, there’s a cost for everything in life. And as someone who has fully benefited from this country and has fully benefited from the sacrifice of others, I feel like it’s my obligation and my duty as a fellow countryman and a patriot of this great nation to give back to those who provide that for me.”
Allen’s time working with this organization has taught him many lessons. Specifically, he explained that remaining personal and remembering never to let the brand outgrow the overall mission is very important. Staying true to the core values is also critical, and Allen ensures that Homes for Wounded Warriors achieves this goal by working with others who want to join for the right reasons. As he explained, not all money is good money.
“If you’re not in it for the right reasons, we don’t want you in it,” Allen added. “The other thing is, with our recipients, we treat them like family, we’re honest with them, we’re upfront. We don’t try to set anybody up for failure. I think that the biggest lessons you learn are through trial and error.
“The reason we’re able to partner with so many great people is because they realize that our core values are what they are. And we’re not going to change and we’re not going to stray from it. You’re never going to wonder like, ‘I wonder where that dollar went.’ Nope, you know exactly where it went. We’ll show you where it went. We’re open and transparent. We are who we are. We don’t say no.”
Allen still fondly remembers shining moments from his career
While the four-time All-Pro retired in 2016 and fully turned his attention to other pursuits, he does think about some of the biggest moments from his career. Some of the standouts he mentioned were catching his first touchdown pass as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, sacking former quarterback Michael Vick, sacking Tom Brady during a Monday night game his rookie year, and playing in Super Bowl 50 as a member of the Carolina Panthers.
Another standout sequence of moments occurred when the spotlight actually shined on another player. Brett Favre joined the Vikings in 2009 after 16 years with the rival Packers and one with the Jets. The NFL responded by putting the first divisional game between the Vikings and Packers on “Monday Night Football.”
The attention remained on Favre throughout the 30-23 win as he threw three touchdowns against his former team, but Allen put on a record-setting performance. He sacked Aaron Rodgers five times — only receiving credit for 4.5 — and forced a fumble. One sack resulted in a safety and two points for the home team.
“I mean, that ‘Monday Night Football’ game was insane. I’m glad you said five, because if you go back and watch the film, B [Brian Robison], I hit him first, and got the ball out,” Allen said while chuckling. “So I totally should have gotten a full sack. B-Rob, if you’re listening, you know darn well you didn’t get that. So I should have 136.5 sacks.
“I mean, you know, I played hard and tried to give fans an entertaining sport,” Allen continued. “But getting Aaron Rodgers five times in a game. I’ll take that. And the victory on top of it. You know, it all worked out well on ‘Monday Night Football.’ That was kind of the whole kit and caboodle right there.”
While the game against the Packers was a truly shining moment in Allen’s career, he made it clear during the interview that some of his fondest memories actually did not impact his stat line. He explained that he built everlasting friendships with teammates while “going through the suck” at training camp or watching big plays from the sidelines. Allen said that he will continue to remember those moments that he shared with other players and the relationships they built.