By Zoe Grossman
HENDERSON, Nev. – The Kansas City Chiefs were dealt a huge blow in their playoff run when All-Pro guard Joe Thuney was ruled out for the AFC championship game against the Baltimore Ravens. With the eight-year veteran sidelined, all eyes turned to Nick Allegretti.
Allegretti, a 2019 seventh-round draft pick out of the University of Illinois, had not started a single game this season before Thuney’s injury. Suddenly, he had incredible shoes to fill — and a duty to protect his future Hall of Fame teammate, Patrick Mahomes.
Allegretti stepped up and delivered. According to Pro Football Focus statistics, he was the highest-graded pass-blocker on the Chiefs’ offensive line in the AFC championship and was on the field for all 81 offensive snaps in the contest. His prowess up front allowed Mahomes to complete 30 of 39 passes for 241 yards as the Chiefs defeated the Ravens 17-10. They are Super Bowl-bound for the fourth time in five years, and now have the opportunity to become the first repeat champions since the New England Patriots in 2004 and 2005.
Allegretti was in tears after the game. “God, I’m so proud of this team,” he told news outlets.
His performance even earned him a shout-out from star tight end Travis Kelce on Kelce’s “New Heights” podcast, with Kelce calling Allegretti “one of my favorite teammates of all time.”
“(He) stepped up like a champion,” Kelce said. “Nick has been, year in and year out, Mr. Reliable every single time he gets that opportunity.”
During the Chiefs’ early morning news conference at the Hilton Lake Las Vegas on Wednesday, Allegretti recounted his postgame feelings with a smile on his face.
“It was an emotional week for me,” Allegretti said. “I didn’t know if I could play midweek — I’ve had an up-and-down career here in Kansas City. To rise to the occasion when you’re replacing a guy like Joe Thuney and to be part of a win like that on the road… it was emotional.”
The Frankfort, Illinois native and Lincoln-Way East alum emphasized the importance of his family and how they played a part in his reaction to the win. Allegretti’s wife gave birth to twins back home last year when he was in Phoenix for the 2023 Super Bowl.
“I couldn’t really put it into words. It wasn’t sadness at all – there were tears of happiness. I knew that my family was there… I became a father last year on (the day of) the Super Bowl, and I feel like that may make you a little more emotional,” Allegretti said.
“(My daughters) are not going to remember this Super Bowl, but we’ve got little jerseys made for them, and I’ll get my gameday picture for my wife with them. That means a lot,” he said.
Allegretti has yet to start two games in a row since weeks 12 and 13 of the 2022 season. He started 12 games in 2020, including the Chiefs’ Super Bowl loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but his playing time decreased when the Chiefs inked Thuney to a five-year, $80 million contract in 2021. Now, with Thuney missing practice again Wednesday afternoon, the prospect of another Super Bowl start for Allegretti is looking more and more likely.
Veteran guard Joe Thuney speaks to the media on Wednesday (Zoe Grossman/MEDILL)
“I’m treating it like I’m playing (on Sunday) because that’s how I have to, mentally,” Allegretti said. “My job is to be ready to play center, right guard and left guard. Every week, I’m prepared to play all three of those positions.”
Thuney has started all 129 appearances of his NFL career. The two-time Pro Bowler took every snap of both his Super Bowl wins with the Patriots, as well as his first win with the Chiefs last year.
“Joe is incredible,” Allegretti said of Thuney. “Whether he’s playing or not, he’s as locked in as can be. Having a guy like that who’s been probably the best guard in this league for the last four or five years… he’s not gotten the credit that he deserves.”
Thuney had equal praise for Allegretti, calling him “a true professional.” “He just doesn’t miss a beat,” Thuney told the media on Wednesday.
Even as what could be the biggest game of his career draws closer, Allegretti has not forgotten his journey against all odds.
“If you had told me that I went undrafted, (I would say) that makes sense, sure,” he said. “We didn’t win a whole lot of games in college, but I had confidence in myself. All I wanted was an opportunity — an opportunity to get somewhere. The fact that I got that opportunity with Kansas City is incredible.”