For many collegiate athletes, careers become a roller coaster of highs and lows, and UW senior place kicker Mike Allen is no exception. A walk-on in 2001, Allen has seen it all, from a game-winning kick in the 2002 Alamo Bowl, to a season of high hopes in 2003 that was plagued by injuries.
Allen is back this season and hoping 2004 is more Alamo Bowl and less training room. He used the offseason as a time to recuperate and to work on his long distance kicking. Despite the injury, Allen still drilled 75 percent of his field goals in 2003. He was able to kick well from inside the 40-yard line, but the injury complicated his efforts from beyond that range.
"The biggest thing is he is healthy," Wisconsin special teams coach Brian Murphy said. "Last year he battled through a hip injury and that is a hard thing to overcome. As a kicker that is where all your power and strength comes from and if you have to overcompensate for an injury like that, it throws all your mechanics off."
"You are going to get more field goal opportunities from inside the 40, so you are going to work on that more," Allen said. "But I did work on my longer distances, mainly now because now my leg is a little healthier than it ever has been. Last year I wasn't able to kick a 40-yard field goal without my leg feeling like it was going to fall off."
The injury-ridden season of 2003 served as a time when Allen was able to mature as a kicker. Riding a wave of momentum after the game-winning kick in overtime of the Alamo Bowl, big things were expected from him. Murphy, however, believes that the injury helped Allen mature coming into his senior season.
"I think that anytime you face adversity you have to learn from it and I think that it has some part in the maturation process," Murphy said. "I would hope it would help him in some phase."
Certainly it seems that Allen has matured since the day he made the roster his freshman year. Allen maintains that his greatest moment at UW was the day he became a member of the Wisconsin football team.
"The biggest thrill was not the Alamo Bowl, the biggest thrill was getting on the team, becoming a Badger, becoming a part of the team," he said. "Kids don't realize but it is a frat, a sorority, its whatever you want to call it. It's my life."
With the Badgers Sept. 4 home opener quickly approaching, Allen is once again healthy and ready to help add a few more thrills to his résumé before his kicking days at UW are done.
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