In a lot of ways, Giorgio Tavecchio‘s NFL career trajectory could be described as “zero to 100.”
This time last week, Tavecchio was unemployed, something he had experienced in some form for the past five years. Now, he at least has a job as the Oakland Raiders kicker for the rest of 2017, taking the place of injured 17-year veteran Sebastian Janikowski.
His first game was outstanding, going 4-for-4 on his field goal attempts, including two 52 yarders, an NFL first. As a result of that performance, he was named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week. Not bad for his regular season debut.
What’s even more amazing is the journey Tavecchio took to get to his current position. It starts in Italy, traverses through various parts of California, with some brief stops in Wisconsin and Michigan, and finally ends where we are now.
Born in Milan, Tavecchio immigrated with his Italian parents to the Bay Area at a young age, eventually attending Campolindo High School in Moraga, California. He was a natural soccer player during his four years there, spending time with the football team as well. By the time his senior year rolled around in 2008, he was serious enough about football to start looking at colleges for both sports.
UC Davis offered Tavecchio a full scholarship to play on their soccer team, but they wouldn’t budge when it came to football. The Cal Golden Bears were more open, but they could only offer a walk-on spot. He jumped at the chance for the latter. When the first game of his freshman season came around, he was already their starting kicker.
Tavecchio played relatively well for Cal over the course of his four-year career there, finishing with a kicking percentage of 75%. However, a statline like that is typically borderline NFL material. He would have to put in an outstanding pro day if he wanted to stand a chance of catching on with a pro team.
March 14, 2012. Cal’s pro day at Witter Rugby Field on their campus. Kickers usually go on last at events like these, so Tavecchio patiently waited for his turn on the field as his teammates worked out. Just as he began his warmups, storm clouds moved in. It began downpouring.
Most of the scouts in attendance began filing out, with some only catching a glimpse of a few of Tavecchio’s field goal attempts. Despite being left with just a few of his teammates and the team chaplain for company, he finished his full workout.
“I made it a point to do it and finish what I had set out to do regardless if anyone was watching,” Tavecchio recalled in a recollection to his university’s website.
His name would not be called during the 2012 NFL Draft, though to be fair, just four were taken. Of them, Blair Walsh, Greg Zuerlein and Randy Bullock are still in the league, and John Potter hasn’t played since 2014.
Tavecchio was able to get a tryout with one of his hometown teams, the San Francisco 49ers. He spent that preseason as David Akers‘ understudy, getting released during final roster cuts. He went unsigned for the rest of that season. That process would repeat itself for the next four years.
In 2012, the Green Bay Packers gave him a similar opportunity, and the same result occurred, with Tavecchio getting cut at the end of the preseason. In 2014, the Detroit Lions came calling. This time, he wouldn’t even make it a full preseason, getting cut before the last game. That’s where the Raiders came in.
The team had him kick the last game in Janikowski’s place to give the veteran a rest night, cutting him afterward. However, Tavecchio managed to make an impression on them. They would bring him back to serve as a camp leg for the next three seasons as well. Being a left-footed kicker, Tavecchio’s style was close enough to Janikowski’s that not much was lost when he got playing time.
That’s why when the decision was made to put Seabass on injured reserve, Tavecchio was the first guy the Raiders called.
Tavecchio was close to moving on from football during his time away. His political economy degree had afforded him numerous job offers, including big-time ones in New York City and London. But he stuck to his guns, hopeful that the right opportunity would come around. His patience has paid off in a big way.
“I’ve had a ton of support,” he said to the local media yesterday. “Just an outpouring of support from the community. Again, for me, as much of a personal journey as it is, I’d like to share it with as many people as possible. Especially those that have been with me every step of the way.”
Information for this piece was gathered from CalBears.com, Raiders.com and The Mercury News