Perched in his tree stand like some hulking primitive warrior, Jared Allen eyes his game.
Grasping a Cold Steel Samburu spear, he readies for the elk's approach as it strides unknowingly into range. He raises the primeval javelin, quickly takes aim and slings the six-foot steel rod with full force. Perfect hit.
"Awesome, I feel like frickin' Geronimo right now," he says through teeth clenched by pure adrenaline.
Allen pumps his fist as the elk runs tail-down into the distance, only to keel over a few hundred yards away with the spear protruding from its shoulder.
This is what Allen calls hunting's ultimate rush, an up-close and personal kill that requires all the talent and precision of his Native American ancestors.
Some might say Minnesota Vikings' No. 69 is addicted to adrenaline, both on the field and off. His life has become a tale of two thrills, and with his recent discovery of spear hunting, his archaic connection with the primitive hunter is all the more relevant.
But Geronimo never made an NFL quarterback quiver. Allen, a tried and true football soldier, does it 16 times a year.
He grew up on the outskirts of San Jose, Calif., in the small farming town of Morgan Hills, and always had an affinity for the outdoors and an intense respect for nature.
"My dad hunted, my grandfather hunted, and I just remember being around it a lot growing up," he said. "I didn't get into it personally until after my senior year of college, after I had the time and the money. I was probably about 22, and it brought back those childhood memories being out there, carrying the ammo. I just love being out in the country, I grew up in the country."
Then there was football. His father, Ron, insisted that he eat, sleep and breathe the sport until he made it to the pros. All in all, Allen's love of the rough-and-tumble life is a projection of how he was raised, and he wouldn't have it any other way.
A Different Kind of Rush
"When you're sacking a quarterback it's a release of that aggressiveness, it's absolutely mauling him, but you want to use that adrenaline to maintain an aggressive attitude," he said. "But in hunting, your adrenaline works against you, you have to control that emotion and energy. If you get all jacked, you're shaking, you're probably going to mess up. It's different in that regard, but the feeling is still similar."
The 6-foot-6-inch 260-pounder also stressed the importance of respecting both challenges and benefiting from his connection with nature and hunting.
"It's something completely different than what I make a living doing," he said. "To be able to be out in nature and not have any control over your situation is the ultimate. It's about learning the difference between animals and what you have to do to be successful. It's not just the thrill, it's just trying to keep your emotions in check."
So, when he isn't donning purple and gold or brandishing a big silver belt buckle and cowboy hat (or even goggles and a Speedo dressed as Michael Phelps), Allen is rocking camo face paint and a stone-cold glare.
It's a challenge fitting in hunting around his job since they peak at the same time of year, but Allen has made it work and has amassed quite an impressive list of trophies.
"We're busy on the weekends, but if we win we get Monday off," he said. " We always get Tuesday off; I have a place a couple hours north of me [in Minnesota] where I hunt. So I usually shoot there Monday night and hunt all day Tuesday. I mean, if there's hunting available I have to be doing it."
In recent years, he has bagged a red stag in New Zealand, a black bear in northern Idaho and a buffalo with a bow. He also took a wild boar in Texas equipped with only a knife, a hunt that he called "absolute controlled chaos."
The more adventurous and wild, the better for Allen, who eats every animal he takes in the field.
What's on tap for this year?
"All you bears watch out," he said. "I'm addicted to spear hunting now."
There's no doubt that each new thrill feeds his appetite for that primitive challenge, so he jumps at every chance to hunt that he gets.
"I was so pumped with that spear in my hand, my heart was throbbing," he said. "It was the coolest thing ever and I just couldn't wait to have that feeling again."