When NFL players retire from the game, one of the things many say they miss is the high-level competition.
After spending 12 seasons in the league, former defensive end Jared Allen has found an unusual way to challenge himself -- curling -- with an ultimate goal of winning a spot on the 2022 U.S. Olympic team.
So he hooked up with fellow NFL retirees Marc Bulger, Keith Bulluck and Michael Roos for a crash course in learning the sport
“We played in the NFL, so we are mentally tough. We are able to move on from things quickly," Allen told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "We are also able to take coaching and push each other without getting our feelings hurt. Hopefully that allows us to catch up to some of these elite players a little quicker.”
So far, so good.
On Friday night, Allen and Bulger will team with a pair of expert curlers in a tournament in Eveleth, Minnesota. On their schedule is a match against the 2016 Olympic gold medal-winning squad led by John Shuster.
The five-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman said his curling pursuit began when a friend bet him he couldn't become an Olympic athlete. All he needed to do was find a sport. After considering and then dismissing badminton, he settled on curling.
Allen recruited Bulger, Bulluck and Roos -- all three former Pro Bowlers -- who also live in the Nashville area. Allen was able to sell them on the idea of trying to represent the USA at the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.
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“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.’”
Training together since March, they hired former Olympian John Benton as their coach. And things have progressed quickly. (Bulluck and Roos will be watching as Benton joins Allen and Bulger for the tournament in Minnesota.)
“We call ourselves the All-Pro Curling Team,” Allen said. “Obviously a reference to our football days and not our curling days. Not yet, at least.”