The NFL's premier sack artist was open and honest as we discussed his feelings about the organization, his desire to stay in Kansas City, his coaching staff and the business side of the National Football League. This is part one of a two-part interview.
Warpaint Illustrated: Looking back now what has it meant to you that your first NFL experience was in Kansas City?
Jared Allen: I was drafted here, so in essence Kansas City gave me the opportunity to play in the NFL, which has been a dream of mine since I was eight years old. When I came here they gave me an opportunity to not just be a long snapper, but to play defensive end, and I ended up earning a starting job, so for that I owe them everything.
The community has been nothing but awesome to me, welcomed me with open arms, and the fans are great. I've made this my home for the last four seasons and it's been really fun. It's been a ride, an experience, and I've met some lifelong friends here. My best friend lives out here, my step dad owns apartments out here, so Kansas City has become a part of my life.
WPI: You've had a pair of DUI arrests but you've overcome that and appear to be on a path of personal resurrection. You've clearly changed your life outside of football and become a better player. How much of your success this year can be attributed to your decision to stop drinking?
Allen: I don't know if it made me a better football player, because I feel like I've been a good football player since I started playing, but it's funny because people all of a sudden associate me stopping drinking with me having a better year. For me, this has all been a process of my maturity as a player and as a man, growing up.
Each year I go back and look at what I can do better. I try to find my weakness from the year before and make that my strength. Well, last year I had like 9.5 sacks, and they took two away on a Wednesday, because DJ knocked the ball out on one. Now they changed the rule so if a guy causes a fumble, you can still split the sack. So I lost two on that, but I led the entire league in pressures, which means I was at the quarterback more than anybody in the NFL, I just wasn't making the tackle or finishing the play. That was a big part of my focus this year. When you get there, you've got to finish.
When I quit drinking, I was able to maximize the results of my workouts. I've always been in the gym and worked out, but not drinking and cleaning my diet up, that was huge. Now I'm seeing the maximum results of my workouts. I tweaked my workouts up a little bit and went back to doing a lot of explosive movements, a lot of power-lifting and a lot of everything like that. I went and did the MMA (mixed martial arts) stuff, which really helped my core, my flexibility and my hips. My hand-eye coordination developed off of that.
The whole thing was a process. The one glaring thing people noticed was that I stopped drinking, but to me this was never about having to quit drinking. This was about me growing up. I've been playing football since I was eight years old. Normally you're crazy on the football field, you're crazy in life. I never had to separate that going through high school and college. That's what you are, you're that crazy football player out having a good time.
Then I got up here in the NFL, and the reality never changed for me. Now they're paying me to do it, and I'm still out having a good time. I wasn't trying to hurt anybody, I was just out having fun. Anybody that knows my personality, I'm just a fun-loving guy. I still do a lot of the same stuff, but I just don't drink now.
To me, that was part of the growing up process. I had to take a step back and say OK, you've got in trouble a couple times, so there was a problem. I was making really bad decisions when I was drinking. So let's cut out the common denominator here and move on with life.
I had to start managing my time away from football. That's a huge deal. You take these kids who are 20, 21, 22, and you're going to give them good salaries. A good chunk of money, and then say you're going to work until the end of the year and then you've got about four months off, and one little rookie symposium is supposed to make us know what to do?
I didn't have to carry my on-the-field life to my off-the-field life, and that's what I had been doing since I was little. I was just crazy all the time. To be a great football player, you have to play on the edge of failure, and you can't do that in life. I had to learn that I didn't have to live my life on the edge to have the edge on the field. I can go out and play football on the edge of insanity, but I can come home and be a productive, responsible part of society.
That's just a growing up process. You have responsibilities as a man and a member of the community; you have responsibilities as a professional. That was the majority of it. That whole process brought me more peace inside and people see the results of your changes.
The DUI kick-started that, and things happen for a reason, and I'm obviously ashamed of the way it happened, but I don't regret that it happened. Obviously things needed to change.
Each year I try to set the bar higher, I try to beat my last year. This year, this is just the bar for what I have to beat next year. I never want it to plateau. When it plateaus is when I need to hang ‘em up and can't play anymore.
Look for part two of our exclusive interview with Jared Allen tomorrow night.
One on One: Jared Allen
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