Most athletes would’ve quit their sport if their career went anything like Giorgio Tavecchio’s.
After being cut six times, the Italian native is facing yet another roster spot battle. If not for a ridiculous amount of perseverance, Tavecchio wouldn’t be here today.
Tavecchio moved to the United States as a child, in fact, the move was just 13 miles away from Oakland. Giorgio played high school football at Campolindo High School and excelled as a kicker, however, he did have his struggles as teammates often couldn’t understand him.
“Tavecchio wasn’t a stereotypical football player in high school. His coach at Campolindo High, Kevin Macy, said Tavecchio put a map of Italy on his play-calling wristband and showed it off before games. Once when Macy wanted an onside kick — a “pooch” kick — Tavecchio spoke in such a rapid Italian accent while asking multiple times if he should kick it left or right that he flustered his own teammates.”
After high school, Tavecchio furthered his career by walking on at Cal. He was able to earn kickoff duties as a freshman and worked his way into kicking field goals after a short time. As a senior, Tavecchio was superb as he converted on 20 of 23 field goal attempts. Oddly enough, however, he only made 36 of 42 extra points.
Tavecchio had long made it his goal to kick at Cal’s Pro Day, dreaming of impressed scouts and possibly an NFL contract in his future. Giorgio spent months upon months practicing for this one day, where he hoped he could make a name for himself.
His pro day came, and so did the clouds. Tavecchio was one of the last to perform that day, and as he was prepping to show his talents, so was mother nature. After a day of watching NFL prospects, scouts didn’t want to sit in the driving rain. Giorgio wasn’t fazed, and he completed his workout anyway.
“By the time I was done with my set, maybe 45 minutes later, I had kicked probably 30 field goals, a couple kickoffs,” Tavecchio said. “There was just my team chaplain (Kevin Knox) and a couple teammates (kicker Vincenzo D’Amato and punter Jed Barnett). … I noticed (the scouts), but this is one of those things that kickers can understand. You don’t want the circumstances to dictate your behavior or actions.”
That kind of determination would serve him well. Tavecchio was signed to his first NFL deal in 2012 by the San Francisco 49ers. After being released shortly after, the Raiders had used him as a preseason filler for several seasons. Upon being cut year after year from Oakland, he signed with the Packers and Lions but was soon cut by each team.
Tavecchio confided with friends, and it was at that moment, his friends say he thought about quitting football. To them, it was the first time he had ever expressed any doubt in his career.
He was then signed again by the Raiders in the 2017 off-season. Then cut on September 2. This one wasn’t like the others, though. Sebastian Janikowski had lingering back problems and was placed on injured reserve. Tavecchio went to the practice squad, then was promoted to the active roster. Finally, after five years, his opportunity arose.
On his NFL debut against the Tennessee Titans, all the hard work Tavecchio put in finally paid off. Tavecchio went 4-4 on field goal attempts and hit two extra points. Two of his field goals were from 52 yards. He had one of the greatest debuts ever for a kicker and earned the game ball from former head coach Jack Del Rio. Giorgio had quite the speech after:
“Gentleman, I’ve dreamed for years about this moment. And it means so much to share it with you all. To see your smiling faces, makes all the hard work, the struggle, the sacrifice, the tears worth it.”
You can’t help but root for the guy. After a successful rookie season, and Janikowski now in Seattle, it seemed Tavecchio would finally have a home.
Then the Raiders brought in an undrafted rookie free agent. Florida kicker Eddy Pineiro inked a contract to compete for the job. Perhaps it’s just training camp competition to keep Tavecchio on his toes.
What is known, is Tavecchio’s work ethic. He is going to give it his all. He’s used to being the underdog. This is nothing new to him. So, don’t be surprised if we see a familiar face kicking for the Silver and Black this season.