Tavecchio’s POTW recognition a product of perseverance

When Sebastian Janikowski‘s back pain became too much for the Pro-Bowl kicker to continue carrying out his duties, the Raiders tabbed Giorgio Tavecchio as his replacement.

It was a clear choice. But not for his experience, he had never earned a roster spot out of his six training camp invites, and not due to an undeniable preseason performance, he finished 3-of-4 on field goal attempts missing from 36 yards in the team’s fourth and final preseason game. The decision was much more primitive than that — Tavecchio’s left-footedness meant place holder Marquette King wouldn’t have to adjust his holding techniques in the absence of lefty Janikowski.

The 27-year-old answered that goofy-footed bell with a perfect performance — 4-of-4 on field goals and 2-of-2 on extra points — including a pair of 52-yarders, making him the first kicker ever to make multiple 50-plus yard field goal attempts in an NFL debut, carrying the Raiders to a 26-16 win.

For his performance, Tavecchio was named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week Award.

Quarterback Derek Carr called the feat “absolutely amazing,” adding:

“Some of these things are like a movie. … Talk about a guy that deserves everything that’s coming his way. He’s a good dude and he works his tail off.”

Tavecchio, though, said the recognition was as much a product of his team’s success as his own. To an extent, head coach Jack Del Rio agreed, adding that a kicker who has spent each of the past four preseasons with Oakland only to be cut showed incredible resilience:

“I’m really proud of him for the grit and the perseverance, staying the course and continuing to believe. Of course, he’s really developed himself. … I told him, ‘OK, great job, now we’re going to the next game.'”

That next game will be in Oakland, when the Raiders host the New York Jets Sunday.

For Tavecchio, who was raised in Moraga and played college ball at the University of California, Berkeley, this is more than a home opener but a homecoming. Will there be added pressure? for sure, but any player who survived six cuts to make such a noisy debut is equipped to handle that. Will there he have a large pass list? He says no.

Despite being a Bay Area native, and Cal and Campolindo High School graduate — where he began kicking as a sophomore in order to gain access to the team barbecues — Tavecchio says he won’t have many fans there to see him. But after a record-setting career-opener, the whole of the “Black Hole” will certainly rain down cheers when it first sees the No. 2 jersey trot onto the field.

A magical moment to be, for sure, was almost lost in the fetal stages as Tavecchio was “pretty close” hanging up his kicking shoes following a fifth failed attempt at making a roster a season ago:

“Sometimes, when you’re rejected so many times, it takes a lot to put yourself back out there.”

He added that being called back to a situation in Oakland he called “special,” and a team he believes in on the verge of something equally special, was too much to turn down:

“I consider myself very fortunate to have been called back three years in a row here — whether it’s ’cause I’m good-looking, or ’cause I’m left-footed, I don’t know. I hope it’s for the former.”

Even still, having not made a regular season roster in the past five tries, Tavecchio has remained positive as he chases, what he called his “very elusive and wild and crazy dream.” A dream that has been shoved into a historic reality. A reality he hopes continues its early path.

And if it does, in eight weeks when, Janikowski is expected to return, he will take his chances with which ever fork it takes:

“In 20 years, hopefully, I’ll look back and say, ‘whatever happens I gave it everything.'”


Kalama Hines is SFBay’s sports director and Oakland Raiders beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Raiders football.