When most Minnesota football fans hear the name Jared Allen, the image of the Viking defensive end comes to mind.
The All-Pro is one of the NFL’s all-time leaders in sacks and seems destined for the Hall of Fame, but as Hopkins fans will quickly point out, he is not the only Jared Allen playing football in Minnesota.
Hopkins’ Jared Allen is not as big as his namesake, but shares the same passion for football. A two-year starter at linebacker, Hopkins’ Jared takes his role as defensive captain seriously.
“I have some fun with my name,” he said. “Everybody knows who Jared Allen is. I will never be 6-7 and 285 pounds, but I can still try to play like the other Jared. He has a nose for the football and never gives up on a play. I look up to him and try to do those things myself.”
Allen led Hopkins to a 5-4 record this season, but it ended all too soon with a 35-14 loss to archrival Minnetonka in the first round of the section playoffs.
“We had beaten Minnetonka [36-34] the week before in the last regular-season game,” Allen noted.
While Hopkins’ defense played well this fall, it was the offensive unit that received most of the fanfare.
Senior quarterback J.T. DenHartog, another captain, put up big numbers every game. In the regular-season win over Tonka, he had 36- and 91-yard touchdown runs.
“When we were sophomores, I knew J.T. would be a special player,” said Allen. “He just dominated this year. When we needed a first down, he would get one. When we needed a touchdown, he would get one.”
Allen, who stands 5-11 and weighs 193 pounds, said his favorite game of 2012 was the season opener against Episcopal High of Houston, Texas.
The game was played on a rainy Saturday afternoon at Hopkins High Stadium, and the fans watched from beneath a wide array of colorful umbrellas.
Hopkins won 21-20, but the last play of the game kept everyone in suspense. Episcopal completed a long pass at the Hopkins 3 yard line and the receiver was stopped just short of the goal line as the horn sounded.
“We are known for offense, but we made some big defensive plays,” said Allen. “It was an honor to be part of this defensive unit. This was by far my most enjoyable year in football.”
What were Allen’s goals as captain?
“The biggest thing we wanted to do was stay together as a team,” he said. “We kept a positive attitude all season and emphasized that we are a family.”
Allen played defensive line when he was younger, but made the switch to linebacker in high school.
“I am glad I don’t have to wrestle with those big offensive tackles anymore,” he said. “As a linebacker, I have a chance to get out there and run and make plays. There is much more responsibility.”
Allen said that he and teammate Ty Johnson had a special chemistry as linebacker teammates this fall.
“We are really close on and off the field,” said Allen.
Allen also had a close relationship with his coach, John DenHartog, who is J.T.’s father.
“I played football at Totino-Grace my freshman year,” said Allen. “When I was there, my relationships with the coaching staff ended on the field. Coach D has great relationships with all of the kids on our team. He is the best coach I have ever played for and has made my football career all the more enjoyable. I feel like I can walk into his office and talk to him about anything.”
Allen, the son of John and Stacy Allen, said he plans to continue his football career next fall. With a 3.7 GPA, he should be able to get into almost any college. As it stands now, Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa would be his No. 1 choice.
“I have had some interest from their coach, and that’s where I want to play,” he said.
Allen said it was a tough night for everyone when Minnetonka beat Hopkins in the playoffs. Many players lingered along with their coaches on the turf at Hopkins High Stadium.
It was a time for Allen to seek out the younger players.
“I told them to carry on the tradition,” he said. “I remember when I was a sophomore. The seniors took the last loss of the year really hard. It hit me hard too. I wanted the younger guys realize how special every minute is.”