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Jared Allen's cowboy way saddles nicely with Panthers

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The first time Jared Allen entered the Carolina Panthers locker room in late September, defensive end Charles Johnson remembered him being in full cowboy regalia. Allen can often be seen rocking a 10-gallon hat and Fu-manchu mustache. His push for a truly authentic look rolls all the way down to the boots.

"But he came right in, and he just fit right in," Johnson told Around The NFL. "We're humble guys. No arrogance. When he came in, guys just opened their arms."

This week at the Super Bowl, Allen returned the favor to his accepting teammates. On Thursday, Johnson, defensive end Ryan Delaire and defensive end Mario Addison were all gifted brand new -- and reportedly, quite expensive -- cowboy boots.

Johnson wore them with a pair of gray Michael Jordan basketball shorts, often propping them up on his circular table as reporters walked by. Both Delaire and Addison tucked their sweatpants into the boots, so as not to hide the detail work, which appears to be white flames.

"I like the feel of them right now," said Johnson, who was walking in cowboy boots for the first time in his life. "Right now, just trying to get the feel of them. They're a little narrow. But I'm thinking in the future I might wear them a little bit more."

He looked at the boots and nodded.

"This could be a future for me."

Nothing summarized Allen's impact on a team quite like that moment.

Now in his 12th season, the future Hall of Fame pass rusher is looking for a Super Bowl ring to cap his legacy. He was granted the opportunity to flee an unfriendly defensive system in Chicago and play naturally in Carolina's aggressive 4-3 defense. On the field, Allen has been disruptive, often setting his teammates up or drawing a crucial double team.

And off the field, he has been Jared Allen -- a player who thrives when he's simply allowed to be Jared Allen.

"There is just a brotherhood with no drama," Allen said. "On my 2009 team, which is the team I would most compare this one to when I was with the Vikings, we had a very close locker room there too, but there were still some brotherly spats here and there. On this team, we just have a "no BS" policy and coach (Ron) Rivera does a great job laying out the plan. Then the vets do a good job leading and the young guys do a good job at listening and being a part of it. So, really I have never been in a locker room like this. I have been in ones close to it, but this one takes it to a whole different level."

Peyton Manning's potential retirement has garnered plenty of attention this week. But what about a possible last rodeo for the NFL's closest thing to a real cowboy?

Although Allen's future is still unclear, the potential for an epic goodbye is there.

Allen was brought up on a horse ranch in Morgan Hill, a community less than two hours south of San Francisco. He attended Live Oak and Los Gatos high schools.

"I won my first national title at Townsend Field right here in Santa Clara," Allen said this week. "... This is my backyard; this is where I grew up. My mom lives like 15 minutes from here and my Dad trained horses and managed ranches all over the Bay Area, then they moved to San Diego when I went to college. I mean, this is it, this is where it started."

Allen said he would need to talk to his wife, kids and family after the season ended to decide his future. For the first time in a while, he is enjoying the feeling of being "just present," as he likes to put it.

But, even at his most humble he knows that he's leaving a lasting impact on the game. Allen is ninth on the all-time sack leaders list and is tied with Julius Peppers for the most among active players with 136.

That, and Charles Johnson looks good in cowboy boots.

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