When people hear the name "Jared Allen" they think of one thing: intimidation. Allen towers at 6'6'', weighs 270 pounds, jumps off the line of scrimmage like a puma, and hits like a truck.
And he is fast. In the NFC Wild card playoff game vs. the Vikings and Eagles, Eagles RB Brian Westbrook caught a screen pass, and took it 71 yards for the score, but got there only a few footsteps before Allen.
Allen, stereotypically, looks like someone who would graduate from Idaho State, mostly because of his mullet and the way he imitates roping a calf every time he records a sack. If I were to walk past Allen on the street, part of me (most of me) would want to turn and run.
This guy is scary.
When the Vikes acquired Allen in a trade with Kansas City last offseason, then signed him to a six-year extension, part of me was worried. The fan inside of me was excited...adding the 2007 sack leader to a defense that set league records in run defense, and adding him to a line that already had All-Pro defensive tackles Kevin and Pat Williams.
The other part of me was worried. Over the past few seasons, the Vikings have had many character issues, most notably the "Love Boat" scandal. The last thing the Vikes needed was a cancer in the locker room, especially when they were projected to be a top competitor for the Lombardi Trophy.
In 2007, Allen was suspended the first two games of the season for alcohol abuse and DUIs, including two arrests in five months, and was sentenced to 48 hours in jail. The Vikings didn't need the headache.
But my outlook on Allen significantly changed as I watched the Fox 9 News at 10 following the Arizona/Carolina playoff game. Minnesota's Defensive Coordinator Leslie Frazier has been rumored to be a leading candidate for several head coaching positions, Denver and Detroit in particular.
Jared was featured in an interview, which began with him saying, "Please don't take him. We want him to stay here." Allen chuckled it off and then went on to endorse Frazier for a head coach position, explaining his knowledge of the game and defensive schemes.
But what really struck me was when he talked about Frazier's commitment to his players.
"We spend our plane rides talking about our spirituality. We talk about our relationships, not only with my girlfriend, but also with my walk with Christ."
I was stunned. Jared Allen, the man who was fined multiple times for late hits last season, is a Christian.
It took me a while to process this. I had just finished reading Tony Dungy's book Quiet Strength and I still had a closed mind. Who was I to judge Jared Allen? Then I remembered what 1 Samuel 16:7 says: "People judge by outward appearances, but the Lord looks at the heart."
Philippians 3:13 says, "I focus on one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead."
Due to my stereotypical judgment, I have given Allen the cold shoulder since he arrived in Minnesota. I ignored his apology to Kansas City after his arrest and his promise to give up his alcohol consumption.
Allen has behaved very well in Minnesota so far. No DUIs, no running cops over with cars (Randy Moss), no Love Cruises, and no fights in Miami strip clubs (Bryant McKinnie). The Vikings are dedicated to keeping cancers out of the locker room, and I finally realize that Jared Allen will do good things in Minnesota.
He is a team leader and excellent proof that people can be forgiven for past deeds and that everybody deserves a second chance. (Unless you are Pacman Jones. Then you get four chances.)