Mark Moseley of the Redskins and Rick Danmeier of the Minnesota Vikings are the only nonsoccer-style kickers in the National Football League. That may change soon if Ed Delgado, former Georgetown University and St. John's High School kicker, can impress the Oakland Raiders this summer.
Delgado, a 25-year-old free agent, recently signed a two-year contract with the Raiders and hopes to beat out incumbent Chris Bahr, who made only 14 of 24 kicks last year, and missed six extra points, making 27 of 33 kicks.
Delgado has been through this before. He had a brief tryout with Cleveland in 1979, and in 1980 the Redskins took him to camp. When Texan Diron Talbert learned Delgado had been born in Mexico City, he nicknamed him "Taco." After watching him kick, Talbert quickly revised it to "Super Taco."
Delgado knew he had no chance to make the team then because Moseley was coming off an all-pro year. But Delgado made good use of the opportunity to study and work with Moseley and quickly became his protege.
"He really helped me, and was always willing to work with me," Delgado says of Moseley. "I think he's the greatest. He's sort of my idol."
Moseley showed Delgado a special way of taping his ankle to add greater height and five yards in distance to kickoffs and field goals. "The taping gives you so much extra lift and height," Delgado said, "it's almost like you're kicking with a sledgehammer."
The Raider camp is Delgado's first real opportunity to make it in the league. "I told the Raiders I didn't want to go to camp unless I was guaranteed a good shot," he said. "I see myself making this team and playing well. Everything is falling into place. It's not like I'm up against an all-pro or somebody coming off a great year. There's no real pressure. If I don't do well, I'll go home and become an oral surgeon."
Delgado, in his fourth year of dental school at Georgetown, is currently ranked fourth academically in a class of 152. Juggling his schedule while in dental school has been difficult at times.
His perserverance has paid off. He wrote and called several NFL teams last summer, but didn't get much response. Oakland finally said they would be "in the area" during the preseason when they played New England. They would give him a tryout if he could make his own way to Foxboro.
After driving for eight hours and sleeping on a friend's floor, Delgado showed up at the stadium the next morning and asked for Steve Ortmayer, special teams coach. "I think he was a little surprised that I showed up," recalled Delgado.
First they started with extra points. He kicked the first attempt over the net. And most of the rest. As Ortmayer moved Delgado farther and farther back from the goal posts, Delgado continued to drill them through.
According to Delgado, by the end of the tryout Cliff Branch, Arthur Whittington and Raymond Chester were milling around behind him and asking Ortmayer, "Who is this guy, Coach? Suit him up now."
"We're very impressed with the accuracy, strength and distance of his leg," Ortmayer said, adding that the Raiders were not willing to gamble on a roster spot for Delgado that close to the season. "We told him we'd be interested for this season, though, and we think he's got a good chance to make the team . . . We feel Ed will be able to step in and handle the pressure."
Delgado has been making pressure kicks his entire career. At St. John's, he tried out as a running back, but soon realized his only chance to make the team was as a kicker.
In his senior year he kicked a 47-yard field goal that led the Cadets to a 17-14 victory over De Matha. The following summer, despite a bad hold and wet turf, he managed to kick a 31-yard field goal with 14 seconds left to lift the West to a 3-0 victory in the D.C. Coaches All-Star game at RFK Stadium.
After St. John's, Delgado enrolled at Georgetown. "I should have gone to a big school (for football)," he said. "But I knew I wanted to be a dentist so I went to GU." While there he kicked 14 of 20 field goals and 62 of 65 extra points.
These days, Delgado works out at St. Albans, where he kicks over a backstop that is more than twice the height of a goal post through two poles that are about half its width.
"I'm going out there to give it my best shot," Delgado said. "If given a chance, I think I can be as good as Moseley . . . and better."
The Raiders hope so, too.