NFL to curling: Former Pro Bowler Jared Allen aims for Beijing 2022
It seems like the impossible switch: from National Football League player to Olympic curler.
But that's exactly the challenge Jared Allen, who was named to five Pro Bowls during his 12-year American Football career, has set himself.
As if it wasn't difficult enough, the first game he played on the professional World Curling Tour was against defending Olympic champion John Shuster.
The whole idea of trying to qualify for Beijing 2022 came from a friendly bet that the former defensive end couldn't become an Olympian, according to the CBC.
Allen decided on curling, and was joined in his implausible journey by three other former NFL players: quarterback Marc Bulger, linebacker Keith Bulluck, and offensive lineman Michael Roos.
"I guess we're going to see if football players can become world-class curlers," Allen told the CBC.
Their coach is U.S. Olympian John Benton, who was part of Shuster's Vancouver 2010 rink.
Not that it's straightforward, of course.
"We know that the level of talent here far exceeds where we're at right now," Allen added before his curling debut.
'Baptism by fire'
As the 36-year-old readily admits, a match-up against Shuster to begin his curling career wasn't expected.
"I've been laughing so much about that. I saw the draw and couldn't believe it. Thrown to the wolves," he said, according to CBC.
At least he had Shuster's old teammate, Benton, throwing skip stones for his rink at the Curl Mesabi Classic in Minnesota. Benton and young American curler Hunter Clawson replaced Bulluck and Roos for this first event.
Allen was right to be wary of the Olympic champion rink, unchanged from PyeongChang with the exception of Tyler George, who has chosen to take time away from curling.
Shuster's team — with the addition of his and Benton's 2010 teammate Chris Plys — put 11 on the board against Allen and company. That included a five-point end, replicating a feat they achieved in the eighth end of the Olympic final against Sweden.
No one is expecting Allen's rink to cause an earthquake, least of all the man himself.
After their 11–3 defeat to Shuster, the team suffered three more losses in the team's remaining games in the bonspiel (8–4, 8–5, and 14–3). And it seems converting his NFL skills to use in his new sport is still an on-going process for Allen.
"I'm learning how to bring down my heart rate to throw draw weight," he told the CBC.
But don't expect him to give up on his dream even if the start isn't going well.
The team have already planned events in 2019, including an appearance at the Ed Werenich Golden Wrench Classic in Arizona.
"It’s like that old saying, If we shoot for the moon and we miss, we’ll still land among the stars," Allen said to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
"You’ll see all four of us together on the ice way more next year."