No. 16: Vikings DE Jared Allen
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WHAT THE HALL OF FAMERS SAY ABOUT VIKINGS DE JARED ALLEN
JAMES LOFTON: The most impressive thing I saw Jared Allen do this year -- he rushes the passer, yes. And he's a great run-stopper. He had 66 tackles and 22 sacks. But the most impressive thing is he filled in as the long-snapper this season. The long-snapper went down, Jared Allen filled in, and he's covering punts and he's running down there a million miles an hour. That says to me: football player. You transport him back to the '60s, Jared Allen could have played anywhere up and down that line. And that calf-roping thing, I love that, too.
MIKE SINGLETARY: Jared Allen is going to will himself to get to the quarterback. I don't know how he does it, I can't even really explain it, but he lines up, and the next thing you know, he's got the quarterback. The mentality and relentlessness that he approaches the game with is second to none.
WARREN MOON: Jared Allen is just a tough, hard-nosed player. He's a defensive end who can get to the quarterback, but if he has to play in the trenches, he can. When he played at Kansas City, he played the run well. And in Minnesota, he is more of a pass-rusher. He is a throwback type of guy if you know him. He's like a big cowboy. He wears cowboy boots and tight jeans, and he's a real throwback.
MIKE DITKA: Jared Allen plays every down, hard and physical. He could've played in the '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s. He brings it on every play and gives all he's got.
ALLEN ON HIS TOUGHEST NFL MOMENT
In 2008, after four seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, Allen signed as a free agent with the Vikings. With a big contract and big expectations, Allen played through serious injuries.
The toughest moment of my career was probably in my first year in Minnesota, 2008. I had a separated AC joint [shoulder] and a torn MCL, and kept playing. Those were some tough days. You just spend all week preparing mentally to play, and then you get shot up on Sunday and you go out and play. That's the kind of glory that you find in this game.
For me, it's always been glorified: What can a man take? I used to watch "100 Toughest Players." You watch all these older guys playing with broken bones and Jack Youngblood playing with a broken leg. So for me, if I could say that I played a game with a busted-up shoulder and a busted-up knee, in my own mind, I was so much cooler and so much tougher. That's the kind of glory I found in this sport. It just gives you a greater sense of accomplishment when you're able to look back at what you did that year with the adversity you played through.
ESPN.COM'S JOHN CLAYTON ON ALLEN
Allen is the type of relentless pass-rusher who would succeed in any time period. He wasn't a first-round choice who came into the league expecting things to be handed to him. Allen works every play. He also has the ability to get into the minds of blockers and get the best of them. He would have been perfect on some of those great Dallas Cowboys teams of the past. I'd compare him to Jack Youngblood, the Rams defensive lineman from the 1970s. Youngblood played in Super Bowl XIV against the Steelers with a broken leg. Allen is that type of player.
CLAYTON ON HALL OF FAME CHANCES: The more sacks he accumulates, the better the chances. Now that he has more than 100 sacks for his career, he's in the hunt.
John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Follow Clayton on Twitter @ClaytonESPN
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Additional reporting by ESPN The Magazine's Morty Ain, Louise Cornetta, Amy Parlapiano and Alyssa Roenigk.