During his 12-year NFL career, Jared Allen was a heavyweight defensive player, making his presence known on multiple teams, especially the Minnesota Vikings. It was as a Viking that Allen went on a trip that touched his heart and soul, touring with USO to visit servicemen and women deployed overseas. He even told the assembled troops as much.
That's what led to Jared Allen's Homes for Wounded Warriors (JAH4WW).
"It has been one of the best experiences of my life – something that I'll never forget," Allen said of his time visiting troops. "We, as players, probably get more out of it than you do as soldiers and Marines." Even though his grandfather and younger brother were Marines, the experience changed Allen, inspiring him to create his own charity to support America's wounded.
Even after he was traded to Chicago and later Carolina, Jared Allen's Homes for Wounded Warriors carried on no matter where Allen was playing. Even though he's listed as one of the 50 Greatest Minnesota Vikings of all time, the uniform he wore on the field wasn't what defined him. If you ask the man himself, he'll tell you what he does off the field is what matters most.
"Football is what I do, it's not who I am. The things that we do today — to impact these lives, to change people's lives — can last forever," he told SB Nation. "We have a great responsibility to the community that supports us, and to our veterans who allow us to do what we do."
Former Vikings defensive end Jared Allen presents free Super Bowl LII tickets to eleven-year-old Tallon Kiminski, son of Minnesota Air National Guard member, Maj. Jodi Grayson.
(U.S. Air National Guard photos by Capt. Nathan T. Wallin)
When it comes to helping wounded veterans, Jared Allen is a godsend. On its website, the JAH4WW says, "Jared was moved by the commitment, dedication, and sacrifices that our soldiers make every day to protect our freedom. He wanted to say thank you to every soldier in the only way that Jared knows how. By embracing the conflict and making a positive life-changing difference in the lives of those who need it most, Jared and his JAH4WW will help make life for wounded vets just a little bit easier."
Talk is big, but in practice, Jared Allen is much, much bigger than just words. Since its founding in 2009, his organization has helped raise funds to build or revamp homes for injured veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, raised tens of thousands of dollars from corporations like Wal-Mart and Proctor Gamble to provide everyday household goods for veteran families in need, and on Veterans Day, you can always find the now-retired Allen doing something to help veterans in need.
NFL player Larry Fitzgerald signs an autograph for troops from the Washington Army National Guard at Camp Ramadi, Iraq, along with Will Witherspoon from the St. Louis Rams, Jared Allen from the Minnesota Vikings, and Danny Clark from the New York Giants in 2009.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Emily Suhr)
"I knew I had to do something to serve our country," Allen once said of the Jared Allen Homes for Wounded Warriors. "I feel the best way to do that is serve those who serve us."
If you're a veteran of the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan who is in need of housing or alterations to suit your disability, apply to Jared Allen Homes for Wounded Warriors on the organization's website. Jared Allen is one guy you definitely want in your corner.