The white cowboy hat bobbed above the crowd, creating waves of noise and a wake of purple.
The white cowboy hat, visible amid a small sea of security guards, team officials, reporters and fans at the Vikings' draft party, became the iconic focus of an otherwise anticlimactic day.
If you could fight through the crowd, you would find that the cowboy hat accessorized the fu-manchu mustache, the steering-wheel-sized belt buckle, the boot-cut jeans and worn cowboy boots, all of which accessorized new defensive end Jared Allen -- hunter of boars, quarterbacks and spotlights.
What we learned on Saturday was that Jared Allen is not just a good football player. For the Vikings, he is a symbol of ambition, a ticket seller and an emcee, a force of nature and a magnet for fans wearing straight-off-the-rack 69 jerseys.
Watching Allen cut through the crowd was like watching a politician on election day. He became the eye of the scrum. He nodded, made eye contact, signed autographs, smiled and waved, all while moving forward amid his handlers. When he took the stage in one end zone of the Vikings' Winter Park practice facility -- and it seemed he went to the microphone almost as often as Roger Goodell on Saturday -- he sparked standing ovations.
Allen encouraged Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to take out extra health insurance. "Aaron Rodgers might have some trouble getting up after that game,'' Allen said of the Vikings' opener in Green Bay.
He told the fans, "You've got to teach me the right way to trash Green Bay in the paper.''
When defensive tackle Pat Williams threatened to start dressing like Allen, Allen threatened to give him a pair of tight jeans. Pat Williams in tight jeans -- isn't that the eighth sign of the apocalypse?
We learned Allen owns a vintage pink Cadillac with bull horns on the front, likes hunting, once wore bunny slippers to a team meeting at Idaho State and vacationed this winter in New Zealand and Australia. He grew up on a ranch in California and killed a boar with a knife in Paschal, Texas, after waiting for two days in the bushes. "We went out there, the dogs picked up the scent, we started running and before I knew it I had a hog over my shoulder and we were eating,'' Allen said in an apparent attempt to make drive-through McDonald's sound appetizing.
For Vikings fans, though, the most interesting part of the day -- on a day in which the Vikings made only one draft pick, having traded their first-rounder and a few other picks to Kansas City for Allen -- had to be Allen's interaction with his new linemates.
Ray Edwards interviewed him. Pat Williams joked about his clothes and his car and borrowed his hat. Kevin Williams said something, and, as usual, no one could quite hear what Kevin Williams was saying, but he was smiling as he spoke.
They looked like a happy group as the four did simultaneous interviews and teased each other offstage. "The competition between the D line here, the willingness of each person to push each other to be the best, that's what gets me excited,'' Allen said. "Their attitudes are awesome.
"They have proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that they're some of the best D tackles to play the game, and when you talk to them you'd never know that. Their humbleness, their willingness to get better, that's what I have, too. ...
"I feel bad for our linebackers. They might not get to make any plays.''
This might not come as a surprise -- Allen plans to hold a few conversations with opponents this season. "Oh, I talk a lot,'' he said. "I talk an awful lot.''
As much as Pat Williams? "I will throw some serious competition Pat's way,'' Allen said. "Pat's pretty funny, though. Pat must be in pretty good shape, because it takes a lot of conditioning to run your mouth all the time.''
Allen's enthusiasm doesn't come across as bluster. He seems like the kind of guy who has more energy than he can contain.
He's an elite player who takes pride in his work ethic, saying he does mixed-martial arts workouts to improve his core strength and agility and that "conditioning is something that I can control.''
On draft day 2007, the Vikings chose Adrian Peterson with the seventh pick in the draft. He became the rookie of the year. On draft day 2008, the Vikings introduced the player they acquired with their first-round pick (among other picks) and introduced Allen.
This might constitute the Vikings' best use of consecutive first-round picks since Bryant McKinnie and Kevin Williams in 2002-03 ... or Randy Moss and Daunte Culpepper in 1998-99 ... or Joey Browner and Keith Millard in 1983-84 ... or Alan Page and Ron Yary in 1967-68.
Adding Adrian Peterson and Jared Allen within a calendar year -- it's hard to do better than that.
Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon on AM-1500 KSTP. • firstname.lastname@example.org