Jared Allen isn’t the biggest defensive lineman in the NFL. He isn’t the fastest, and you’ll find stronger men in the league’s 3-4 and 4-3 schemes. None of that stopped the Minnesota Vikings star from leading the league in sacks throughout the first half of the 2011-12 season.
But, when talking with the eight year veteran, you get the sense he’d trade his long career and his current achievements to call attention to and build support for his foundation, Homes for Wounded Warriors. H4WW is devoted to building or renovating the homes of America’s returning wounded service men and women and does entirely with the donations of its many supporters.
While Allen is the bane of quarterbacks throughout the NFC, he’s helped ease the return of many brave men and women from combat experience to daily life in America. When you compare the weight of that important work, playing football wouldn’t seem to hold up so well. But, Crave Online connected with Allen to talk about his day’s work – crushing running backs and saving soldiers.
CraveOnline: How did you get started working with our wounded soldiers? How did Homes for Wounded Warriors get started?
Jared Allen: It began when I went on a USO tour for the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. I had a chance to talk to these brave men and women and hear their stories. I was humbled by hit – hearing about their sacrifices. When I came back from that tour, I wanted to stay involved with them and that cause. I was approached with an idea by James Stroh (a sergeant in the Army National Guard, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran and the director and vice president of H4WW), and we’ve worked together every since.
The foundation gives me a chance really to donate my time – to work hands on with the cause.
CraveOnline: And while you’re working with H4WW, you’re having one of the best seasons of your career -leading the league in sacks. SInce you’re not the biggest or fastest guy out there, what gets you to the quarterback faster than the next guy?
Jared Allen: Maybe I’m deceptively fast. Seriously, in the NFL, you’re not going to outman anybody. Everybody is athletic. Everybody is fast. Everybody is strong and skilled. All I can control is my own conditioning and my mental focus.
CraveOnline: So, is success due to your physical ability, your mental state of your motor?
Jared Allen: It’s a combination of all three. Without the physical conditioning, you don’t have that motor. And your mental state allows you to maintain that heart you need. It all has to go together.
CraveOnline: Aaron Rodgers of your rival Green Bay Packers is far and away the hottest player in the league this year. You managed to sack him twice in a loss to the Packers earlier this year. Is he your favorite guy to bring down, or are there others you especially enjoy sacking?
Jared Allen: I like getting to all of them, but you remember sacking the good ones a little more. Fortunately, I’ve been able to get to some of the best in my career.
CraveOnline: But this year your Vikings are struggling. Are you in a rebuilding mode this year?
Jared Allen: We’re not rebuilding – at least I hope it’s not rebuilding because to I’m too old to go through that now. Instead, I think it’s something we need to figure out now to get our season turned around. We’ve got a talented rookie quarterback (Christian Ponder), and it’s up to all of us to help him develop. That’s what we’re looking to do.
Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS