Ex-NFL Star Jared Allen Is In Hot Pursuit Of Qualifying For The 2026 Winter Olympics In Curling

Jared Allen curling
ESPN

Who’d have thought that a legendary pass-rusher like Jared Allen would take his competitive fire to the ice for curling? After joking with a friend five years ago about qualifying for the Olympics someday, Allen decided that a viable route to do that was via the rather obscure sport.

Now, the man who totaled 136 career sacks will try to move one step closer to the 2026 Winter Games at the USA Curling National Championships in New Jersey starting next week.

A deep-dive story on Allen from the New York Post outlines the broad strokes of his curling journey. He initially thought badminton might be the way to go if he was going to make it to the Olympics, but decided he needed a less active, more laid-back sport. Witnessing the John Shuster-led USA team win gold back in 2018 made him double down, rather than cower in fear that he couldn’t measure up.

“At that point, I was already too far down the rabbit hole, so then I look like a jerk talking about how I’m going to try to make the Olympics in curling when we just won a gold medal at…Took a bet and now five years later I refuse to welch on the bet.”

Allen’s team actually beat Shuster’s in last year’s national championships. In the NYP piece, Allen also expounds upon why he got so interested in curling, thanks to a genuine appreciation for the strategy involved.

“The dynamic of how to determine how hard to throw, tracking ice conditions, paying attention to all those little things. All the minute angles that go into it, that’s where I think the sport is really fun and that’s where I think you see the best teams are the most consistent teams.”

Cowboy hats off to you, Jared Allen, because I wouldn’t have the patience to pick up curling. Never mind that he’s pursuing a goal in which you have to wait four years between chances to get on the world’s biggest stage at the Olympics. The 2026 Winter Games will take place in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. These upcoming US national curling championships offer Allen’s team a chance to earn a spot in the World Curling Championships, which begin on March 30 in Switzerland. There’s also the chance to clinch a berth in the 2025 Olympic Team Trials.

Who knew the world of curling was so complicated and filled with so many hurdles to make it to the Olympics? What a gauntlet…

So yeah… still kind of feels like a long shot for Allen to earn his way to Italy. Then again, this is all so confusing that he just might pull it off. Here’s a little more from Allen on his curling background.

I almost can’t believe this is real:

Just to get to this point is quite a feat in my opinion. It’s not like curlers have the abbreviated shelf life of, say, NFL players.

Allen is 41 years old; the oldest American curler in the Olympics I could find was Scott Baird back in 2006 at age 54. Then you factor in the elite athlete Allen is, and I’d count him off at least three more legit cracks at the Olympics before he retires. If he takes this seriously and keeps working at it for a period of years, what’s to stop Allen from getting there someday?

I know one thing, I’m certainly more interested in American curling than I was yesterday thanks to Jared Allen.

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