Jared Allen's Wild Career Epitomized the Best and Worst of NFL Stardom

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Jared Allen's Wild Career Epitomized the Best and Worst of NFL Stardom
Paul Sancya/Associated Press

With a perfectly in-character video posted to Jared Allen's official Twitter account, one of the NFL's most prolific sack artists of all time has announced his retirement.

Allen, whose brief stint with the Carolina Panthers ended with his only Super Bowl appearance, finishes tied with Green Bay Packers linebacker Julius Peppers for ninth on the NFL's official career sack list with 136. He boasts five Pro Bowl nods and four First-Team All-Pro nominations in his impressive 12-year career.

Though Allen never won a ring, it wasn't for lack of trying. At his peak, he was an every-down terror; before and after those dominant years, he was a relentless pass-rush specialist.

He was a larger-than-life personality on and off the field. In a league where helmets and access policies limit face time for players who don't play an offensive skill position, Allen's wild hairstyles were front-page news. In a league where creative celebrations and authentic self-expression bring out starched-shirt boo birds (and penalty flags and fines), the former Idaho State Bengal's calf-roping celebration was all cowboy.

He founded a charity, Homes for Wounded Warriors, and has teamed up with the Professional Bull Riding association to help build handicap-accessible houses for disabled veterans. He's an avid big-game hunter, who's proudly taken down bear and elk with nothing more than pointy hand weapons. He's even taught less gifted carnivores how to eat exotic meats with The Quarterback Killer's Cookbook.

It's all these wild and wonderful facts, it seems, that have allowed us to forget that Allen has been arrested three times for DUI.

Allen is a classic underdog story, the kind we love so much in sports. Snagged out of Idaho State in the fourth round by the Kansas City Chiefs back in 2004, the 6'6", 265-pound Allen was drafted more for his long-snapping ability than his pass-rush skills.

"He brags all the time about how he's the best in the league, best in college when he came out," former Minnesota Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier once told the St. Paul Pioneer-Press about Allen's long-snapping ability.

He also had a record.

Per Sports Illustrated's Andrew Lawrence, Allen was "a keen bar fighter" at Idaho State, "arrested once for battery and twice for resisting arrest and was cited for DUI."

But once in Kansas City, it didn't take long for Allen to get written up extensively in the stat books: He had nine sacks in 10 starts for the Chiefs that rookie year, leading to a full-time role.

Over the next three seasons, Allen had 34 sacks, 168 tackles, eight fumble recoveries and 25 passes defensed. He also had two arrests for DUI, per ESPN.com. After the first, he was allowed to enter a diversion program; five months later, he was handcuffed again after refusing a breathalyzer test.

The second arrest triggered a four-game suspension under the NFL's old substance-abuse policy. Then-Chiefs president Carl Peterson deemed Allen "a young man at risk," per the Kansas City Star (via Pro Football Talk).

Allen talked his way down from a four-game suspension to just two games, per Len Pasquarelli of ESPN.com at the time, and over the remaining 14 games of 2007, he racked up a league-leading 15.5 sacks. The Chiefs, gun-shy about giving the loose cannon big guaranteed money, traded Allen to the Vikings for a first-round pick and two third-rounders.

"His name was Carl Peterson," Allen told the Kansas City media about the reason he was sent away, quoted here via Pro Football Talk. "You can write that in caps," Allen said, and continued:

Obviously, I had a problem with [Chiefs owner] Clark Hunt, too, because he chose Carl over me, huh? When everything went down there, I didn't appreciate being lied to. I was told I'd get [a contract] extension and everything, and the way things played out, my biggest thing was, "Listen, I don't lie to you guys. I show up and bust my tail for you. Don't lie to me." ... It's tough to go and give your all for someone like that.

Allen instead went and gave his all for the Vikings, racking up 85.5 sacks in six years for Minnesota. To his great credit, Allen also stayed clean. His ranching and hunting exploits (such as spear-hunting an elk), sweet mullet and No. 69 jersey became an iconic part of Purple and Gold lore.

His recent free-agent stint in Chicago was ill-fated; head coach Lovie Smith was fired after Allen's first season as a Bear. Allen, a poor fit for new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio's 3-4, was traded to the Panthers just a few weeks into the 2015 season for a 2016 sixth-round pick.

Just as Allen's trade to the Vikings was a win for all parties (the Chiefs drafted Jamaal Charles and Branden Albert with two of the picks they got for Allen), Allen and the Panthers helped each other get to the Super Bowl. Though Allen was credited with just two official sacks, Pro Football Focus gave him strong positive grades in four of the Panthers' last five games—including a plus-2.2 grade for his Super Bowl performance (despite a broken foot).

Allen rides off into the sunset as everything we love about pro football: an all-out, never-say-die guy who clawed his way up from the Big Sky Conference to the pinnacle of football. A vivid, outspoken personality who played the game with joy and abandon. A game-changing player who had to be accounted for on every down.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

He was also everything we hate about the NFL: Charged with committing the same crime on three different occasions, he served only 48 hours in jail and a two-game suspension. He's outspoken about a lifestyle and personal beliefs that don't always jibe with the kinder, gentler, family-friendly image the NFL tries to project.

Allen's outsized personality and performance seem to have granted him a pass, whereas other players (such as Panthers quarterback Cam Newton) have been harshly criticized for playing with that kind of look-at-me bravado.

For better or worse, Allen was a throwback in the NFL's modern era. Beloved by fans wearing the same-colored jersey, hated by fans wearing the colors of his opponents and entertaining for just about everyone, Allen's production and honors compare favorably with some of the best of all time.

As the Internet gets a five-year head start on debating Allen's Hall of Fame candidacy, he deserves to be remembered for everything he meant to pro football.

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