Let’s be honest: Vikings defensive end Jared Allen would much rather be in Canton, Ohio, than in Mankato on Saturday. And it’s not just because he wants a reason to skip the Vikings’ nighttime practice at Blakeslee Stadium. The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s induction ceremony is Saturday evening. And Allen has close connections to two of the five inductees – former defensive end Chris Doleman and offensive tackle Willie Roaf.
Allen broke Doleman’s single-season Vikings’ record for sacks (21) last season with 22 of his own. Doleman was on hand at Mall of America Field during the season finale on New Year’s Day rooting Allen on as he totaled 3.5 sacks against the Bears, setting the Vikings’ record and falling a half-sack short of Michael Strahan’s NFL mark.
Allen has always been appreciative of Doleman’s support. And he still has a ways to go to catch up to Doleman’s career sack total of 150.5; Allen is currently 45.5 behind that.
“Getting to know him over the years has been really cool,” Allen said. “Especially the way he came out for that Chicago game to be there just in case I broke his record. And when I broke his record, man, he gave me a big old hug and congratulated me. I congratulated him this morning. And he’s deserving. I watched some of his film this morning and that guy was a trend setter. He really was. He started an era of just coming across the edge and just absolutely annihilating quarterbacks and doing things with his hands and really turning that corner.”
Allen also gushed with praise Friday afternoon about Roaf. The two were teammates together in 2004 and 2005 in Kansas City, Allen’s first two seasons in the NFL and Roaf’s final two.
Just as Allen is currently battling with talented rookie tackle Matt Kalil at Vikings’ camp and tutoring him along the way, he was once a wide-eyed rookie getting schooled by a future Hall of Famer.
“Willie taught me how to beat tackles,” Allen said. “He taught me how to play. He taught me how to take what my coach was teaching us and make it functional. Just working against him every day was phenomenal. Willie, in my opinion, is probably one of the best tackles to ever play the game. And to have that tutelage every day and listen to him talk about what he’s looking for getting a pass rush, what he’s looking for in a run fit, how he’s going to block something, that back and forth really elevated my mental game.”