As a rookie on Sept. 26, 2004, Jared Allen recorded his first career sack when he brought down Houston's David Carr. Since then, he has added 125 more sacks to his Hall of Fame résumé.
Allen has passed a lot of the game's greatest players on his way up the sack charts. But when he gets his next sack it will be more significant than most.
Allen has 126 career sacks. Derrick Thomas had 126.5 sacks in his illustrious career with the Kansas City Chiefs. From the moment he arrived in Kansas City as a rookie, Allen was compared to Thomas, who was one of the all-time greats when it came to sacking quarterbacks. Moving up the charts has always been special, but, given his familiarity and history with Thomas, that career achievement will be huge for Allen.
"Passing Derrick Thomas means everything," Allen said. "When I came into the league, when I got to Kansas City, he was obviously the iconic player at that time. His reputation as a legend kind of spoke for itself for what he did on the field. I watched of his film when I first got there and a lot of Neil Smith and Leslie O'Neal. I just always kind of measured myself each year – I was chasing his Chiefs rookie sack record my rookie year. I've just always tried to keep pace with him."
Their careers never overlapped – Allen came to the league in 2004 and Thomas' last season was in 1999 – but the Thomas legacy extended deep in the history of the Chiefs. Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham coached both Allen and Thomas and set the bar for Allen to play up to his lofty stands, obviously not an easy proposition, but one that Allen embraced.
"Gunther was talking about how awesome and great DT was," Allen said. "He averaged 12 sacks a year for his career. I knew if I wanted to be relevant in the talk of the best at what I do, I had to be at least up with his numbers. I always tried to keep pace with him and what he tried to do. To have an opportunity to pass him one year sooner than he did it is awesome. It's kind of surreal at times, but it's just one of those goals you try to reach for and then you have to set something else."
Allen has always shown more than his share of reverence to the players of previous eras and, as his career has proceeded, he has watched a lot of film from those players, especially Thomas, and tried to learn what they did to become elite pass rushers. So, did he steal any moves from Thomas and incorporate them into his own game?
"A lot of stuff," Allen said. "That guy had the get-off that was second to none so I learned how he did that. His motor, the way he approached the game, were very similar. I know he didn't like practice, Gun told me all the time I don't much like practice; I'm forced to work harder at practice. There's things that he does that can't be replicated. There are techniques that I was able to take from film, from studying him, that I've been able to implement in my game. Along the way, you can take bits and pieces from a lot of people, so I've tried to watch the greats over the year and learn from them and see how I can implement that into my career to see how I can benefit myself in the league, but to pay homage, so to speak, to those who played in the past and let everybody know that those techniques, you don't need things fancy. When you find something that works, it'll stand the test of time."
Allen has always been concerned about the team performance ahead of individual performance and his surpassing Thomas into 13th place on the all-time list likely won't garner a lot of national attention, but after being compared to Thomas for much of his career, it will have significant personal importance to Allen.
"It's a cool thing," Allen said. "It's nothing real significant but except to myself. It's just one of those things, I always paced myself being a Chief. When I started getting numbers, they were always comparing me to DT and where are we at numbers-wise in our career. I've just always – even when I got here – tried to chase that."
In what may well be his second-to-last game as a Viking, Allen will look to reach a personal milestone that has followed him since he first arrived at River Falls, Wisc. for his first training camp. It's been a long road from that first sack of Carr in September 2004 to reach his personal goal a decade later, but Allen will savor his next sack. It likely won't be his last, but it may be his most satisfying.
"It's been a long trip, took me just shy of 10 years, right?" Allen said. "Well, I'm not there quite yet. It's been a long trip. I think I reflect back on more of the ones that I missed like, ‘Damn, I could be up there.' I don't think anyone is going to challenge Reggie for how fast he climbed the charts. If I never missed a sack it'd be pretty cool. It's one of those things you reflect back and I can remember my first one too – I'm sure I'll remember the one when I break it."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Next sack has personal significance for Allen
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