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Original Issue

Rich Karlis, Barefoot Kicker JANUARY 19, 1987

Rich Karlis is sitting at his desk, 22 floors above the Mile
High City, a pair of two-tone loafers on his feet. The former
barefoot kicker for the Denver Broncos is only a flick of his
right ankle from a fond football memory. "I wear loafers because
they're easy to get on and off," says Karlis, vice president of
sales at GS2.NET, a Denver company that helps small and medium
businesses find E-commerce solutions. "I still prefer to be

Karlis's extra point had tied the 1986 AFC Championship Game at
20-20 with 39 seconds left in regulation after a John Elway to
Mark Jackson pass that completed a now legendary 98-yard
touchdown drive. Five minutes and 48 seconds into overtime,
Karlis again trotted onto Cleveland Stadium's slushy turf. As
the 5[degree] windchill bit at Karlis's bare foot, he kicked the
ball at the Browns' 23-yard line. "I pulled the ball down the
left hash line," Karlis recalls, "and kind of snuck it inside
the left post." The field goal lifted the Broncos to a Super
Bowl berth, and the former University of Cincinnati kicker--who
had been one of 478 hopefuls at a team tryout camp four years
earlier--suddenly became the biggest thing in Denver since,
well, Elway. "People in Cleveland swore I missed it," Karlis
says. "They're still mad about it." Two weeks later, in Super
Bowl XXI, the Broncos fell to the New York Giants 39-20.

Karlis spent seven seasons with Denver and one each with the
Minnesota Vikings and the Detroit Lions before retiring in 1991.
Family Tree, a Denver group that aids victims of domestic
violence, was glad to see the charity-minded Karlis back in
town: His contributions and fund-raising efforts led to the
establishment in '95 of the Karlis Family Center, a haven for
children that offers supervised visitation, custody exchanges
and counseling. Karlis, now 41 and a divorced father of
three--Andrew, 12, Eleni, 9, and Alexandra, 7--continues to
raise money for Family Tree and does volunteer work for the
Colorado Special Olympics, serving on its board and assisting
with marketing and special events.

Karlis's heart is still in football. He is the
secretary-treasurer of the Broncos Alumni Association and says
he would like to open a kicking school. Over the past few years
he has given one-on-one instruction to about a dozen youngsters,
but he does not preach what he once practiced. "It's a lot
easier to kick in adverse conditions with some tread on your
foot," Karlis says. "So I encourage the kids to keep their shoes

--Adam Himmelsbach



"People in Cleveland swore I missed it," Karlis says of the
kick. "They're still mad about it."