If you’re a Bay Area native or a Raiders fan, the name Giorgio Tavecchio is one you’re pretty familiar with. The Italian born kicker played at Cal for four seasons from 2008 to 2011. A couple years after that, he spent four straight offseasons with the Raiders.
In Tavecchio’s first bout with the Raiders, he spent a grand total of four days on the team. They signed him for the final preseason game, he went 3 for 3 in the game and the team waived him the day after the game.
Little did Tavecchio know at the time, but that would be the start of a long back-and-forth relationship with the club.
He was their first signing of 2015 on February 24 and that time would spend the entire offseason, training camp, and preseason with the team. That would be the case again in 2016 and this previous offseason as well. And each time, once the final roster was released, he was among the unemployed.
It was after the first two times that Tavecchio had thoughts of giving up his dreams of being an NFL kicker.
“It was pretty close, pretty close,” Tavecchio said of considering giving up football.
Keep in mind, Prior to his stint with the Raiders, Tavecchio had spent time with three previous teams — the 49ers (2012), Packers (2013), and Lions (2013-14). So he was at what he saw as a crossroads after six times being signed by an NFL team and six teams being released.
He had to do some soul searching. And he got some help from Raiders special teams coach, Brad Seely.
“I actually had a very long conversation with coach Seely back in the spring,” said Taveccho. “He said ‘I understand what you’re thinking, I understand what you’re feeling’. We kind of talked through the ping pong battle going on in my head and in my heart, and he said I just kinda had to follow my heart.
“I knew what my heart wanted. Obviously it wanted to see me be able to be part of something special and this is a special place. You put a lot on yourself. Sometimes when you’re rejected so many times it takes a lot to put yourself back out there. But in the end if you look back on this in 20 years you won’t have any regrets. That ultimately helped push me to make the decision to come back.”
That decision to give it at least one more shot paid off. Just days after he had once again been among the Raiders’ final roster cuts, he was called back in to join the practice squad and travel with the team to Tennessee. Long time kicker Sebastian Janikowski’s back was injured and should he not be able to go. the team would look to their familiar left-footed camp leg to take the job.
The day before the game, Janikowski pulled head coach Jack Del Rio aside and said he didn’t want to let the team down and therefore wouldn’t be able to go. Del Rio made the move to place Janikowski on injured reserve and call up Tavecchio.
He would finally get his shot. And he nailed it.
Tavecchio was perfect on the day, splitting the uprights on 4 of 4 field goals and 2 of 2 extra points. In fact, he was more than perfect. The team called upon him to make two 52-yard field goals, and he booted two no-doubters. Later they called upon him to close out the game from 43 yards away and he did that too.
That performance had him named the Special Teams Player of the Week. You couldn’t have written the script any better.
“Absolutely amazing,” said Derek Carr of Tavecchio’s journey. “Some of these things are like a movie. All four years that I’ve been here, he’s been around in OTA’s, he’s been around in camp, and then we cut him. And every time he comes back, it’s like ‘Oh, what’s up, man?’ So, I’m glad that he’s here to stay for a little bit.”
Carr remembers that journey well. That one game Tavecchio was with the team in the 2014 preseason was Carr’s big breakout game as a rookie in which he threw three touchdown passes and won the Raiders’ starting QB job.
On Sunday the two combined to score all the Raiders’ points, with Carr throwing 2 touchdown passes and Tavecchio adding 14 points while making history in the process as the first kicker to ever convert two field goals of 50 yards or more in his debut. That’s quite a way to make an entrance after such a long road to get to the door.
“We’re really proud of him,” said Jack Del Rio, “for the grit, the perseverance, staying the course with the team to believe and of course he’s really developed himself and is now getting a great opportunity, so I’m super proud of him.”