Jared Allen, State of Idaho – Skyline Sports


At Skyline Sports we love the stories and characters that emerge from one of the most authentic conferences in the West. Steeped in history and heroes, the Big Sky Conference harbors a mystique unique for a conference attended by so many rural but federally funded institutions in the United States.

One of our primary goals at Skyline Sports is to archive history in the state of Montana and throughout the Big Sky. To ensure we never forget some of the most important and influential figures in the League’s 58-year history, we’re introducing a hard-hitting series about those who once graced the big skies.

We’ll be addressing players that we were able to (particularly in photos) during our seven years covering the league as a whole (categorized as “Skyline Era”). We will also remember players from Colter Nuanez’s first seven years, covering the league (2006-2013) during his time with Newspapers and Magazines (Modern Era category).

And we’ll also be thanks to the help of our awesome friends and colleagues from across Big Sky (categorized as “Archived Era”).

EDITORS’ NOTE: The Big Sky Conference created a Hall of Fame in 2020. On July 24, 2022, the league instituted its inaugural league, a group of 14 Legends including Idaho State’s Jared Allen.


Jared Allen, Idaho State’s wild man defensive end who dominated the offensive lines in the Big Sky Conference for four years before launching an NFL career that will eventually end up in the Hall of Fame.

Born in Dallas and raised in Silicon Valley, Allen initially hated Idaho State. He almost got substituted – which was ironic because he was a perfect match for Pocatello. He grew up on a ranch. He hunted. He partied hard. And he took the Bengals closer than ever to the glory days of the early 1980s, making the first-team All-Conference for three straight years and winning the 2003 Buck Buchanan Award as a senior. The ISU has won eight games in a single season since winning the national title in 1981 just four times. Allen has been on two of these teams coached by Larry Lewis.


Allen arrived in Northern California in 2000 after a stellar prep career where he played for several high schools and lost a scholarship offer to Washington after already verbally committing to the Huskies. In his freshman year, he was a rotating defensive end and earned All-Big Sky commendations despite not starting any games. As a sophomore, he was a first-team all-conference player; as a junior, an All-American. When he was senior, Allen was something else entirely — an unholy blend of strength and speed, the indescribable phantom that lives in the darkest corner of every quarterback’s nightmare.

His 28 tackles for loss, 17.5 sacks and six forced fumbles in 12 games made him Big Sky’s first-ever Buck Buchanan Award winner as Idaho State won eight games and went undefeated at Holt Arena – including instant classic double overtime -Wins over Eastern Washington and Montana separated them by two weeks – and just missed the playoffs.

Allen’s pre-draft scouting reports weren’t exactly brilliant, but the Kansas City Chiefs picked him in the fourth round of the 2004 NFL Draft, and he played in an 11-year professional career for the Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings, and Chicago Bears the Carolina Panthers, leading the league twice in sacks, making five Pro Bowls and coming within a sack of breaking Michael Strahan’s all-season record.

He officially retired from the NFL in 2016 and has started a career as a competitive curler while pursuing Olympic dreams on the side.


Allen measured 6ft 6 and 265 pounds before the 2004 NFL Draft when DraftScout.com ranked him the 28th best defensive end and predicted he would go into the sixth or seventh round. He ran a 4.72 40-yard dash at this year’s combine that was 10th among participating defensive ends, but managed a disappointing 13 reps on the bench press, last among D-ends (he was with a running back and two corners draw). .

Allen’s other combine measurements included:

  • 4.34 seconds in the 20-meter shuttle
  • 7.11 in the tricone drill
  • A vertical jump of 33 inches
  • 10 foot long jump


After Idaho State won the fourth national title in FCS history with a magical run in 1981, a 40-year streak of futility and meaninglessness immediately began.

The Bengals have won just eight seasons since, with one FCS playoff appearance (1983) and one Big Sky title (2002, Allen’s junior year).

Larry Lewis’ run in the early 2000s, when the former Boise State linebacker led the ISU to three winning seasons in his first five years at the helm, including two with eight wins, is by far the best stretch the Bengals have had since that I- AA had crown.

Lewis brought his biggest star to Pocatello by stroke of luck – bad for Allen, good for Idaho State. Allen, who was already a California high school star, was kicked out of Live Oak High School after his junior year for allegedly selling stolen yearbooks. After that, his interest in Pac-12 waned, and ISU was the only school still willing to offer him a scholarship.

Allen’s history in Pocatello wasn’t as clean as that loyalty might have suggested. Aside from almost being substituted out, he got into so many fights that certain poky dive bars still point to the holes he punched in the walls. He was arrested in 2002 for drunk driving. In four years at Idaho State, he was never named a team captain, not even as a senior in 2003 when he was already an All-American.


Allen’s 2003 Buck Buchanan Award win made him the first Big Sky player and second defensive end to win the award, then in its ninth year.

He was a preseason All-American in 2001, 2002, and 2003, and a postseason All-American in the latter of those two years, only Idaho State’s sixth multiple All-American selection.

Allen was also named All-Big Sky in all four years of his ISU career, with an honorable mention as a freshman, followed by three straight first-team selections. Available defensive records for Idaho State are not comprehensive, but its 17.5 sacks in 2003 is the most in a single season in school history.

Allen’s college accomplishments pale in comparison to what he did in the NFL, where he made five Pro Bowls and was named a first-team All-Pro four times, including three straight years from 2007-2009.

His 22 sacks for the Minnesota Vikings in 2011, his fourth and final All-Pro year, ranks third in NFL history, beaten only by Michael Strahan in 2001 and TJ Watt in the just-ended 2021 season.

His 136 career sacks is 12th all-time. He’s been the most in both a single season (2, 2008) and career (4, tied to obscure late-1970s nose tackle Doug English, legendary Raiders linebacker Ted Hendricks and still-active Justin Houston). Record for most collateral.

When he signed him in 2008, Allen’s six-year, $72.4 million contract with the Vikings was the richest given to a defensive player in NFL history.


Bad to the bone

VIDEO: Jared Allen dives deep into his unforgettable career

Jared Allen: The Longest Road to Canton


  • One of eight Buck Buchanan Award winners in Big Sky Conference history
  • Second in Big Sky history in career tackles for losses and sacks. Allen held both records for over a decade until he was broken by southern Utah’s James Cowser.
  • Second in Big Sky history in single-season tackles for losses. Cowser broke that record by a half tackle in 2014.
  • Fourth in Big Sky history in single-season sacks
  • Idaho State record holder for career tackles for losses, TFLs and sacks in a season
  • Two-time All-American
  • Three-time first-team All-Big Sky


Jared Allen, owner of one of the most unlikely Hall of Famer careers – and make no mistake, he’ll end up in Canton – in football history. If someone told you at almost any point in Allen’s career that the mustachioed, mullet rusher nearly cracked the top 10 in sacks in NFL history… well, you’d either hit him or burn him at the stake for being a witch is.

Despite his Buck Buchanan award, Allen was rated primarily as a long snapper who came from the state of Idaho. Think about it. A long snapper…coming from a historically futile FCS school…with character issues. He was still in the fourth round and had nine sacks as a rookie for the Kansas City Chiefs. Even after making the league — and averaging over nine sacks a season in his first three years — Allen nearly torpedoed his career with two DUIs in six months in 2006, just as his first contract with the Chiefs was expiring.

Nevertheless, since the turn of the millennium he has become one of the most dominant defensive players in the NFL. There’s no competition as to who’s the best pro out of a big sky school – it’s Allen and then everyone else.

Allen was as idiosyncratic as his career. Many NFL players hunt. Not many walk over barked boars and stab them in the heart. His Wikipedia page references the time when, as a young player, he carved a racing stripe into his mullet for every sack. I wrote the phrase “started a career as a competitive curler” earlier in this article and that’s 100% true.

In that light, the fact that he was from the state of Idaho — and not Montana or Montana State or Idaho or any of the half-dozen Big Sky schools with a better pedigree than the Bengals — makes perfect sense.

Every NFL player that comes out of a Big Sky school has been an underdog. Jared Allen was the greatest of them all and for all his weaknesses he was the perfect avatar for the underdog conference.


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