MINNETONKA, Minn. – Beau Allen is a kind of prairie John Kruk — a guileless, unpretentious, whimsical, big-bellied, Suburban-driving professional athlete who happens to play in Philadelphia.
Though he's only 26, Allen is already a legend here in this suburb 12 miles southwest of Minneapolis where he grew – up, out, and in every other direction. In part, that's because he was a four-year football force at Minnetonka High. But what's maybe more important to residents here in Minnesota's Nice Belt is that he never allowed his local celebrity to go to his ponytailed head.
So unaffected was Allen, friends said, that when then-University of Minnesota coach Tony Brewster helicoptered in to a Minnetonka game at halftime to watch him, the player was so mortified that he crossed the home-state school off his list.
"Beau thought it was ridiculous, the dumbest thing he'd ever seen," said Greg Clough, Allen's boombox-throated defensive coordinator at Minnetonka.
Allen comes from an affluent family — his father is a sales executive with Elizabeth Arden cosmetics, his mother a nurse. But despite that, and despite the fact that his athletic and academic commitments were time-consuming, Allen always had a job.
As a Pagel Activity Center rink attendant, he did everything from driving the Zamboni to cleaning the toilets. Later, after his freshman year at Wisconsin, he kneaded dough and cut cheese as a cook at Detello's Pizza and Pasta.
"We're so stoked for Beau," said Clough, who's normally a Minnesota Vikings fan. "He's such a great guy. And he's one of ours. That Vikings thing doesn't run deep enough for me."
Clough, who's also the hockey arena's manager, was Allen's boss there. The future Eagle, he said, never minded getting his hands dirty.
"A rink attendant is a job where you've got to check your ego at the door," Clough said. "I told him, `If you're going to be embarrassed when a buddy of yours walks in and sees you wearing rubber gloves and cleaning the bathroom, then you'd better apply somewhere else."
The arena, directly behind Minnetonka High, was already a familiar place for Allen when he applied there. Dave Nelson, his head football coach, had his office upstairs, right next to the weight room Allen haunted. And, until he was a high school sophomore, he played hockey there too.
"He actually played more youth hockey than football growing up," Clough said. "He was playing at our highest level before he got into high school sports. He was like 6-2, 245 and you should have seen him. He'd skate down the middle and people would just clear the hell out. He did the same thing in lacrosse."
Allen apparently was promising enough as a hockey player that one local coach considered trying to get him out of his Minnetonka football commitments.
"I walked in one day," Clough said, "and that coach was saying, `We've got to get Beau Allen out of football.' You believe that? He would have messed up one hell of a career. That coach is gone now, but he was a jackass. Never liked him."
"I didn't know who he was, but he was absolutely destroying people. At the end of the day, I told Coach Nelson, `This kid can play varsity football right now,'" Clough said.
He did, becoming the first freshman to start for Nelson, and with the exception of his junior year, when he spent some time as a fullback, Allen would be the Skippers' nose guard until he graduated in 2009.
Throughout the summer practices in his career, Allen always brought his own lunches: Two large coolers, one for food, the other for six 32-ounce Powerades. One day, an eccentric old coach sat down beside him.
"So Beau sets up shop and [the coach] does the same," Clough recalled. "Beau looks over and says, `Anything you want to trade?'"
It was following Allen's freshman season at Wisconsin, that he took a job at Detello's, a no-delivery pizza parlor between Minnetonka and neighboring Eden Prairie. He not only made a little money there, but he inadvertently enhanced his football career.
Detello's offered its employees a discount on its food, and one night a week, as a bonus, they could make their own meals. Allen, who weighed about 275 pounds as a Badgers freshman, topped 300 by summer's end.
"His go-to meal," said Pat Rosengren, the restaurant's manager then and now, "was a sausage, onion, and green pepper pizza, spaghetti with alfredo sauce, and meatballs. He could really fill it up."
Allen returns to Detello's whenever he's back in town. If he's observant, he'll notice there's a new, larger pizza table in back.
"He's a big teddy bear, one of the nicest kids ever to work here," Rosengren said. "But sometimes late on weekend nights, it would get busy. There would be three of us making pizza at a table much smaller than this one. And it was always a little more crowded when Beau was one of the three."
On Sunday, almost everyone in Minnetonka — which produced two previous NFL players, Bennie Joppru and Keith Nord — will put aside their Vikings allegiances and root that Allen and the Eagles come away with rings.
"What Beau has accomplished is a great story," Clough said. "It couldn't happen to a nicer kid. Go Eagles! Beat those … Patriots!"