Longtime Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski is gone for at least half of the season with a back injury and restructured contract. His injury gave Giorgio Tavecchio an opportunity in Oakland’s season opener against the Titans, and he was perfect in his debut.
Tavecchio didn’t miss an attempt Sunday, as he made four field goals, including two from 52 yards, along with two out of two extra points. He was the first kicker in NFL history since the merger to have two field goals of over 50 yards in his debut. After the Raiders’ 26-16 win, head coach Jack Del Rio gave the game ball to the kicker, who had a brief, endearing speech and referred to his teammates as “gentlemen.”
“Aristotle said anticipation can be the greatest form of pleasure,” Tavecchio said. “I think it was a little exaggerated in my mind. The reality of the moment is sweet. That’s something that is subtle but special. When I look back on this time, when all this is said and done, I’ll always be grateful for this day.”
It was a long journey for Tavecchio. The 27-year-old kicker had been trying to break through in the NFL since he was an undrafted Cal prospect in 2012. He had cups of coffee with a few teams but never reached the point where he could attempt a consequential kick. His pro day, as he described it, was brutally sad:
As he warmed up to punctuate the afternoon, rain fell on Berkeley. Scouts flipped up their jacket hoods. They lowered their heads to keep their faces dry. Having seen the top prospects, they left the field and retired to the parking lot.
The storm shone light on the last prospect remaining.
“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.
“I told myself, ‘I’m going to kick during my pro day.’ So, I went to kick for my pro day. If nobody is watching, nobody is watching.”
This year, Tavecchio had an opportunity to take an ad technology job in New York City or London. Instead, he chose to stay with football, and filled the shoes of a kicker who played 17 seasons with the same team. Tavecchio didn’t even look that bad when an opponent treated him like a hurdle yesterday.