Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen does not hold a typical charity golf tournament. That is just not his style. When he throws a fundraiser for his organization, Homes for Wounded Warriors, he does it with some flair.
Allen’s Night Ops II, the second annual event, featured members of the Arizona National Guard, playing the role of drill sergeant, yelling at the participants as they teed off. Instead of a longest drive contest, they had the longest slide contest on a more than 280-foot Slip ‘n Slide. There also was a pig roast between the front and back nines (one took place during the day, like a normal round, the other at night – just to make things interesting).
“Originally we didn’t want to a golf tournament, because everybody does a golf tournament,” Allen said.
“We had all these crazy ideas and focused down to half the course during the day and half the course at night. We just started naming crazy ideas, and this is what came out.”
At one point, Allen wanted to include paintballing in the tournament. If the players came within a certain range of the green, they would become targets of snipers armed with paintball guns. But that seemed like a liability, so they eliminated that aspect.
Even without the paintball snipers, Night Ops made things interesting. Specialist Jacob Taylor had the golfers on the second hole doing “cherry-pickers” while the others in the fivesome each teed off. That means standing arms stretched to each side, opening and closing the fingers, as long as it took for each of the five to take his shot.
“They’re waiting for you. Come on, while we’re young here,” Taylor taunted the golfers as they tried to line up their shots.
Cardinals defensive tackle Calais Campbell was looking forward to the challenge of teeing off while being yelled at.
“I think it might help my game out a bit,” he said. “I’m pretty bad, so maybe if I have to concentrate some more.”
Allen started Homes for Wounded Warriors after a USO tour to Iraq and Afghanistan. He wanted to provide homes, not just houses, for veterans who returned injured after protecting their country. Last year’s event raised enough money to build one house; Allen was hoping to build at least two in the organization’s second year.
The cause means a lot to Allen, whose family has all either played professional football or joined the Marines. His younger brother was two years into a football scholarship at Idaho State when he decided the Marine Corps was right for him.
“My whole family is military,” Allen said. “My grandfather is 26 years in the Marines, my uncle’s in the Air Force, my other uncle is in the Marines. This is the least I can do to help them for what they do for us.”
Some of Allen’s friends, as well as current and former teammates, were on hand Saturday, some to play, some for moral support.
Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald went with Allen on the USO tour that sparked the idea, and the two have been good friends for a long time.
“I think Jared really makes (the event), just his personality and his big heart,” Fitzgerald said. “You add that with the military component, and it makes for a one-of-a-kind event.”
There’s a reason for that. Not many people have the combination of crazy ideas, drive to do something out of the box, and passion for a cause, the way Allen does.
“We’re working up toward landing helicopters on the driving range,” he said.