Catching Up With ... Raul Allegre

SportsFootballIndianapolis ColtsScienceNFLBaltimore ColtsJustin Tucker

The chant began the instant the Colts' placekicker set foot on the field. From deep within Memorial Stadium, football fans growled his name in near-ritualistic delight.

RAAAOOOOL ... RAAAOOOOL.

Raul Allegre would save the day, they swore.

Often, he did.

Four times as a rookie in 1983, Allegre booted game-winning field goals for the Colts (7-9), who boasted his right leg and little else on offense. The Mexico-born kicker accounted for 112 points, or nearly half of the team's output that year, its last in Baltimore. Colts fans voted him the club's most valuable player.

"That meant a great deal to me," said Allegre, 53, a Texas alumnus. "I had no assumptions that I would ever play in the NFL. When I came to Baltimore, I knew about the team's problems with kickers, and how many of them [Boris Shlapak, Dan Miller, Mike Wood] had been laid to rest on 'Boot Hill.' "

Allegre broke the mold. Fans besieged him for autographs. The Blast, the city's pro soccer team, invited him to kick the first ball at its home opener. And, thanks largely to Allegre, the Colts gained respectability following a winless 1982.

"We far exceeded all expectations," he said. "To be part of one of the great traditional teams in the league was a memorable, magical experience."

Acquired from the Dallas Cowboys at the end of training camp, Allegre hit on his first nine field goal attempts, and on 30 of 35 that season. Rock-steady, he took aim in the Colts' opener at New England, nailing a 52-yarder as the half ended and a game-tying 33-yarder at the final gun in a game the Colts won in overtime.

"He seems too good to be true," coach Frank Kush said then.

Three weeks later, Allegre kicked a 33-yard field goal in overtime to defeat the Chicago Bears. The next game, he banged a 53-yarder off the uprights in a 34-31 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. A week later, his 52-yard effort — off the stadium's infield dirt — stopped the Patriots and started the buzz from the stands.

RAAAOOOOL . .

"That's the first time I remember hearing it," Allegre said. "Some guys on the team wondered why the fans were booing me for making the field goal. I said, 'I think they're calling my name.' "

In Denver, he kicked four field goals, including a 55-yarder, and barely missed one from 64 yards on the game's last play that would have defeated the Broncos and set an NFL record. At Philadelphia, he kicked five more in a 22-21 victory over the Eagles, prompting an appreciative Kush to present him with the game ball and a bottle of tequila.

Allegre kept the ball but gave the booze to a teammate.

"It was the cheap stuff," he said. "I don't think Frank knew which tequila was best. And [linebacker] Barry Krauss was glad to get it."

He didn't know it then, but on Dec. 18, in a 20-10 home victory over the hapless Houston Oilers, Allegre scored the last point in Baltimore Colts history following a touchdown. Three months later, while watching ABC's "Nightline" at home in Austin, Texas, he learned of the team's move to Indianapolis.

"I was shocked," he said. "I'd just gotten to know the town, the people. It was just a sad story. I saved a T-shirt, the only thing I had that says 'Baltimore Colts,' but I don't wear it because it'll start deteriorating.

"I'm glad the city has another team, a great organization that's creating its own tradition. But Baltimore Ravens just doesn't have the same ring to it as Baltimore Colts does."

Allegre played eight more years and earned two Super Bowl rings, both with the New York Giants. There, in 1990, he helped a rookie kicker named Matt Stover learn the ropes. Dogged by chronic back pain, Allegre retired soon after.

Married 23 years and the father of three, he now lives in Austin and works for ESPN, where he broadcasts NFL games in Spanish for TV stations in the U.S. and Latin America. Allegre holds both a degree in civil engineering and an MBA from Texas which, this year, sent placekicker Justin Tucker to the Ravens.

"He [Tucker] has been very impressive," Allegre said. "I'm happy that another Texas kicker is having a good rookie year in Baltimore."

Even if his name doesn't lend itself to a chant.

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

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