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From NFL to curling: American football stars set sights on Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics

Marc Bulger (left), Jared Allen (centre) and Keith Bulluck (right) all played in the NFL for more than 10 yearsAthletes can never get rid of that competitive itch.Even in retirement, it lingers. An itch that can only be scratched by a new challenge.So when four former NFL pros decided to form a curling team, there…

Marc Bulger (left), Jared Allen (centre) and Keith Bulluck (correct) all performed in the NFL for higher than 10 years

Athletes can by no manner gather away with that competitive itch.

Even in retirement, it lingers. An itch that can simplest be scratched by a peculiar remark.

So when four used NFL pros decided to originate a curling team, there became simplest one intention in opinion – the Cold climate Olympics.

“I’ve performed in the Legit Bowl and I’ve received MVP, nonetheless I would build reaching the Olympics facet-by-facet with that if we could perchance perchance qualify,” Marc Bulger tells BBC Sport.

Between them, Bulger, Jared Allen, Keith Bulluck and Michael Roos possess made 601 NFL appearances and performed nine Legit Bowls.

Outmoded St Louis Rams quarterback Bulger became chosen ahead of Tom Brady in the 2000 draft, while defensive cease Allen could perchance perchance be basically the most notorious of the four, having performed in the 2016 Huge Bowl with the Carolina Panthers. Linebacker Bulluck and offensive sort out Roos performed for the Tennessee Titans.

But why curling?

“Jared came to me a couple of yr ago and acknowledged he significant to be an Olympian,” Bulger says.

“In the starting up he suggested badminton. I watched movies and decided there became no manner we could perchance perchance end that. He weighs about 270lbs and while I’m no longer as gargantuan, it gave the impression badminton gamers had been loads smaller, extra agile, and sooner.

“Jared then came encourage with curling. We did it a couple of times and we fell in look after with it.”

‘It looked in actual fact easy’ – attempting no longer to drop

Clockwise from top left: Marc Bulger, Jared Allen, Michael Roos, Keith Bulluck

As is the case for many folks, curling became a sport that simplest came on to Bulger’s radar every four years when the Cold climate Olympics rolled around.

But factual nine months since his first tentative steps on the ice, he and his All Legit Curling team-mates are “addicted” – despite the indisputable fact that it has been a steep learning curve.

“It looked in actual fact easy, or at the least to me it did, nonetheless it undoubtedly’s without a doubt no longer as easy because it looked,” the 41-yr-outdated skool says.

“My first intention for the predominant one or two months became to factual no longer drop. But we now possess taken some lovely inappropriate spills. We experienced manner extra distress in NFL even supposing – I possess I broke over 30 bones.

“That is the one appropriate component our coach tells us – we in actuality construct no longer possess any apprehension. When we drop, we tuck in our chin. Everybody is conscious of how one can drop so we construct no longer damage ourselves. Our distress tolerance is gorgeous excessive.”

When All Legit launched their most smartly-liked endeavor, their chums from their American soccer days laughed at them. The curling neighborhood, meanwhile, had been concerned it became a “gimmick” – qualifying for an Olympics is no longer any laughing topic.

They undoubtedly stood out physically. Allen – who recorded 136 profession sacks, the 11th top doubtless total in NFL historical past – is bigger than five stones heavier than John Shuster, skip of the USA’s present Olympic champions.

“In the starting up, they didn’t desire us to form fun of the sport,” Bulger says. “But as soon as they saw how exhausting we’re coaching, travelling as worthy as we’re, and how serious we make a choice it, they’ve in actual fact responded properly to us and welcomed us with originate arms.

“They’re helping us as worthy as we are in a position to on legend of they know we’re bringing reasonably a couple of attention that they’ve by no manner had ahead of.”

Physiologically, the team possess had to adapt. As a quarterback, Bulger stood phenomenal one day of matches nonetheless now adopts a crouching location to throw the stones.

“I’ve had to total loads extra core work than I’m veteran to in discuss in confidence to pick out the placement,” he says.

“Let’s factual lisp I even possess bird legs, so it is without a doubt helped my quad muscle tissue.”

‘The Olympics don’t appear to be unrealistic’ – impressing the consultants

The team are coached by 2010 Cold climate Olympian John Benton

While they are nonetheless very worthy beginners, the All Legit team possess impressed. Of their nine months in the sport, they’ve twice faced Personnel Shuster in competitions, and while they lost on both times, their development has undoubtedly no longer long past neglected.

“We now possess performed the Olympic champions twice now and we hung with them midway by, nonetheless then we made one little mistake and as well they know the draw one can make a choice excellent thing about that,” Bulger says.

“We’re no longer going to these events and embarrassing ourselves. We’re factual making little errors that we know we now desire to enhance at.

“We’re delighted the assign we’re correct now. The consequences don’t appear to be exhibiting too worthy nonetheless the solutions we uncover from the overall curlers, they may be able to not bear in mind we now possess simplest been doing this no longer up to a yr. They’re in actual fact impressed, which offers us encouragement.”

Primarily based mostly in Nashville, Tennessee, All Legit possess two coaches, together with 2010 Olympian John Benton, who runs the US nationwide curling centre in Blaine, Minnesota. The team form the 2-hour flight to Minneapolis twice a month, with Benton additionally doing the reverse.

“Two coaches and four gamers – we better originate producing rapidly or they’ll uncover offended,” Bulger says.

And with three years to switch unless the Beijing 2022 Cold climate Video games, he and his team-mates will desire the outcomes to starting up rolling in if they are to qualify for, and prefer, the US Olympic trials to construct them on the airplane to China.

For anyone who spent 10 seasons in the NFL, the Olympics became an conception Bulger by no manner entertained. Now, nonetheless, it is a ways a special story.

“The crimson, white and blue in actual fact manner one thing to me,” he says of the US flag. “The Olympics are on a worldwide stage. I by no manner dreamed of being an Olympian on legend of there became by no manner a sport in which I could perchance perchance end it.

“When Jared talked about the theory, it in actual fact struck a chord with me and I became all in. It’d be a miracle if we made it to Beijing.

“We without a doubt possess a protracted manner to switch nonetheless I construct no longer possess it is unrealistic.”

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