Nick Allegretti discusses his NFL dreams and draft day confusion from the Chiefs

LINCOLN, NE - NOVEMBER 10: Offensive lineman Nick Allegretti #53 of the Illinois Fighting Illini blocks defensive lineman Freedom Akinmoladun #91 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on November 10, 2018 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)
LINCOLN, NE - NOVEMBER 10: Offensive lineman Nick Allegretti #53 of the Illinois Fighting Illini blocks defensive lineman Freedom Akinmoladun #91 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on November 10, 2018 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images) /

We recently sat down with rookie offensive lineman Nick Allegretti about several things, including how the Chiefs confused him on draft day.

Nick Allegretti doesn’t care that he’s a rookie. “I’m here to start.”

Most seventh-round selections face an uphill climb to make a team’s active roster, let alone entertain notions of starting as a rookie. Fortunately for the Kansas City Chiefs, Allegretti isn’t wired like your average late-round flyer. It’s not just that he’s self-assured. He’s well-grounded in that confidence, knowing that success in his sport—and particularly his position as an offensive lineman—is largely up to him. If he is willing to learn, to refine his technique, to work as hard as possible—it’s all there for the taking.

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Two weeks ago, Allegretti’s long-held dreams of playing in the National Football League took a major leap forward when he was selected atop the seventh round by the Chiefs. It further confirmed his own belief that he could make it, a Midwestern product who put in the requisite work to earn starting reps along the line at the University of Illinois. It was there in Champaign that Allegretti says he first learned to believe in himself at such levels—thanks to the examples of teammates around him who made the leap as well as a coach he’d long admired.

Allegretti grew up a Chicago Bears fan in Frankfort, Illinois, just over 30 miles south of Soldier Field. As a child, he watched Lovie Smith on the sidelines as the team’s longtime head coach. Years later, this same larger-than-life figure would be his own coach, and it was Coach Smith who first impressed on Allegretti just how far he could go.

“I don’t remember the exact words, but [Coach Smith] said something like, ‘Nick, you’re gonna have a real shot to play this game for a long time.’ That sunk in,” says Allegretti. “I was a Bears fan growing up—sorry, I’ve changed that now—but that was the guy I watched on the sidelines for most of my childhood, so to have that guy now be my coach and tell me I can play for a long time was a very cool experience and gave me confidence. It was awesome.”

It was also at that point that Allegretti says he saw his teammates earning opportunities at the pro level. For example, Allegretti  took over as team captain from Ted Karras, who now plays for the New England Patriots.

“I was probably midway through college when I was starting to play and have some success on the field and I saw my teammates moving on to the NFL. These were guys who worked their butts off and were talented, but they weren’t the freaks of nature you might think of when you think of the NFL. They were guys who were willing to work so hard every single day and do the right thing. Then they were good football players.

“Because of that, one guy I played with is going into his fifth year in the NFL. A handful of guys are entering their fourth year. Being able to see them accomplish and achieve it really settled things for me and showed me I can do it, too. It was a cool realization.”

For such a confident player, Allegretti says almost every aspect of the NFL Draft process, specifically as it relates to the Chiefs, caught him off guard. “Honestly, had you asked me heading into the draft who were the top five most interested teams, I probably wouldn’t have said the Chiefs,” he says.

Allegretti says he knew the Chiefs were at least aware of his talents a couple years ago due to Shane Toub, son of Chiefs assistant head coach/special teams coach Dave Toub, being a grad assistant at Illinois. From there, he said the Chiefs never really entered the picture until an interview at the East-West Shrine Game.

“I would say the interview I had at the East-West game was a little more technical than most, which I enjoyed,” says Allegretti. “We got into a little bit of football. It was one of the tougher interviews that I had, but I enjoyed it. I knew the Chiefs were interested in also bringing me out for a Top 30 visit to get my physical. That didn’t actually happen. They ended up bringing in someone else they had other concerns about. But I knew they were at least interested.”

What makes Allegretti’s story even more compelling (yet confusing on his end) was that he wasn’t even absolutely sure they were interested even on draft weekend. The lineman says he spent Saturday of the draft working on a 500 piece puzzle brought over by his girlfriend, which kept his mind occupied while the fourth, fifth, and even some of the sixth round went by. “We finished the puzzle and realized we were getting to the end of the draft, so we might as well watch it.”

Allegretti says he’d taken a few calls during the draft from scouts or coaches here and there for the sake of checking in or giving updates. So even when he got a call from the Chiefs, he wasn’t sure what to make of it.

“We sat down around the end of the sixth round and started watching every pick. That was brutal, to be honest,” he says. “I hadn’t been watching it really. I’d just let it go on in the background and look up if a center or guard got drafted, whatever it was. Then I got a call from [Chiefs scout] Terry Delp, or at least his number.

“I’m not sure who answered, because it was all rushed, and whoever it was said, ‘Okay, I’m gonna put you on with the GM.’ I was like, ‘Wait a minute! I haven’t talked to any other GMs today so this is a little different.’ My family said I was talking a little differently, so I could see them getting all excited. But I had no clue, so I told them, ‘No, it’s just a call. Sit down.’ I didn’t want to get them all excited or whatever.”

From there, Allegretti heard from all the right people, yet somehow it remained unclear whether or not he was really being taken. It comes down to the fact that on draft weekend, the Chiefs were mostly picking at the end  of every round. However, the order flipped in the seventh and the Chiefs were second on the clock.

“The first thing that Brett Veach says is, ‘Hey, it’s pretty cool to be blocking for Patrick Mahomes, huh?’ I was like, ‘Wait, am I?’ That’s the first thing he says. He never said, ‘Hey, we’re about to pick you.’ That’s it. So I’m all over the place. Then I talked to Coach Reid and he says a couple more things that are vague but no one has said, ‘Hey, we’re drafting you.’ So I’m like, ‘Okay.’ I do remember him saying, ‘We just submitted the pick.’

“Then I hang up the phone and had no idea what’s going on. I called my agent and said, ‘Hey, did I just get drafted?’ He’d known it was going to happen, but he didn’t want to tell me. He said, ‘I don’t know. It hasn’t come through the TV yet.’ I look at my phone and had the app going and the Chiefs had the last pick in the sixth round as well. So I refresh the phone and I see they took someone else [sixth round running back] Darwin Thompson]. I thought that was the pick, not realizing they were picking two picks later. So I was like, ‘Oh, that’s it.’ Then I see Tampa Bay make a pick and then it’s the Chiefs again.”

At that point, the confusion was over. The seventh round pick would cement his status as an official member of the Kansas City Chiefs, a moment he’ll never forget.

“At that point, my family is all around the TV and the pick felt like it was in for 15 minutes. I didn’t know until my name popped up and it was awesome. It was a very cool experience. My parents were screaming and yelling. It was a really cool moment and I’m so glad that I got to share it with my family.”

Despite the fact that he grew up watching the Bears, Allegretti says he knows enough about his situation to see just how fortunate he is. He’s playing a position of need on a Super Bowl contender in a town that loves their football team.

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“I think it’s a tremendous fit,” says Allegretti when asked about the opportunity before him. “They’re a talented offensive line group, but I don’t think it’s a group I can’t fit into. My goal going in is to start, wherever that is—center, left guard, right guard. I’m open to any of them. That’s the mentality you have to have in this league. You can’t go in fighting fo the ninth o-line roster spot, even if that’s what you end up doing. You have to have a mentality to do more than that. So my goal is to start, but if I have to sit and learn and take advantage of the resources around me, that’s fine. But starting is the goal.”