Battling academic issues is hard enough for student athletes. Top that with a switch in schools and an abrupt swap from futbol to football, those life-altering events scuttle many dreams and hopes.
Not Eddy Piñeiro. The Miami native oozes the kayfabe machismo Razor Ramon sported and rose to the occasion. The big leg and swagger caught the eye of Alabama’s Nick Saban and, while Pineiro didn’t end up with the Crimson Tide, he formed one half of the accomplished Florida Gators’ kick klique.
Now Piñeiro — along with the other half of the kick klique, Johnny Townsend — is in California vying for the kicking gig that once belonged to his idol, Sebastian Janikowski.
“Eddy has one of the strongest legs you’ll ever see in a kicker,” Townsend, who held for Piñeiro , told Raiders.com. “In my time as a specialist, I’ve never seen anyone that has that much leg talent. He’s a fun player to watch. He gets the crowd into it. He gets the crowd hyped when he hits those long field goals. He’s a real, high-energy player, and what’s cool about him, is pressure doesn’t get to him. No matter how high of a pressure situation it is, whatever the crowd is yelling, he’s just cool through it, and he makes everything.”
How’s this for swag:
“I think my realistic range is 70,” Piñeiro said. “Seventy, 75 depending on how the wind is. If you’ve got a hurricane wind, I feel like I could go longer. I feel like, as far as if there’s no wind, sunny day, beautiful day, I’d probably say like my max would probably be like 70…. 68, 70, that range.”
Despite the powerful and accurate leg — Piñeiro drilled 17 of 18 field goals in his final year at Florida — the Raiders’ starting gig isn’t going to be easy to attain as incumbent Giorgio Tavecchio has a similar skill set and went 16 of 21 (3-for-4 from 50-plus yards) last season before signing a one-year, $550,000 exclusive rights tender this offseason.
“I just met Giorgio, and he’s such a nice guy,” Piñeiro said. “He [Tavecchio] has treated me so good, and just showed me what to do on this day, and what to do on that day, it’s just that he’s more accustomed to it than I am, because he’s been here longer than me. He’s just super humble, super, super nice kid, but that’s why you play sports. At the end of the day, it’s to compete, and you’re going to try to beat out the next guy that’s competing against you.”
Competition between two is best for the Raiders. Not only is head coach Jon Gruden right to preach the mantra, the eventual kicker will be one with resounding resolve. A required attribute to big-game kickers. Two boot specialists overlooked, undrafted and with enormous chips on their shoulders.
Like Tavecchio before him, it’s difficult to discount the opportunity afforded to Piñeiro. The path to Oakland was full of twists and turns and where it ends up will be determined during training camp in Napa.
“It’s been, like I said, it’s been a crazy ride,” Piñeiro said. “I feel like God does everything for a reason. I’m here for a reason, and I didn’t get drafted for a reason, and I’m going to have that chip on my shoulder. Everybody said that I couldn’t play in college, I didn’t have the experience, didn’t play in high school, killed it. Ended up the most accurate kicker in UF history, didn’t miss a 50-yard field goal, I had all these accolades, so it’s just proving people wrong.”