It’s a little strange to think of a kicker who has played at a high level at an SEC school for two seasons and who missed just one kick last season as ‘raw’ or an ‘unfinished product’, but that may be the case with Raiders rookie kicker Eddy Pineiro.
The former soccer player has attempted a total of 43 field goals in a game situation. Where Pineiro’s experience lies is kicking the round ball. And in that arena, he’s kicked a LOT of round balls.
“My dad played professional soccer and football,” said Piñeiro. “I wasn’t a big football-time player. It all started when one day he said, ‘Hey, let’s go to the Alabama football camp.’ I said, ‘Hey, if I go here and they offer me, then I’m going to keep playing football. If not, I’m done playing football. I’m going to keep playing soccer.’ I went up there and I did really good. They offered me and it pretty much took off from there.”
As any kid whose father or mother is either a professional athlete or coach, they get trained from a young age. That training is how, despite being just 6-0, 173 pounds, Piñeiro is known for the power he can generate on kickoffs and long field goals.
“Like I said, my dad played professional soccer,” Piñeiro continued. “Me growing up, he’s brought me out to the field and he would make me kick 100 soccer balls with my left and 100 with my right every single day. That’s my secret if I had to say (laughing).”
Going from kicking soccer balls to footballs was surprisingly easy for Piñeiro. He said he picked it up quickly. College teammate Johnny Townsend said from the first time he saw Piñeiro kick, he knew he had the goods.
“He’s naturally gifted,” said Townsend. “Some people are just born with a leg. Some guys can go out and throw a baseball over 100 miles per hour and that’s something I could never do. some guys are blessed with that gift. For him, it’s a lot of leg speed and contact. It’s momentum and really good contact. It’s pretty amazing.”
Stepping in front of 95,000 fans to play a position in a sport you’d only picked up a short time before, is a big deal. He would make 38 of his 43 field goal attempts. Two of those five misses came in his second game. What was impressive was how he finished out his career. Piñeiro would miss a kick in the first game last season and wouldn’t miss again the rest of the season.
Where Piñeiro is still a work in progress is in his mechanics and fundamentals of the game.
“I felt like in the beginning my mechanics were a little noisy,” said Piñeiro. “I only played two years of college. I feel like over time, just my mechanics are getting better.
“I’ve been watching a lot of Dan Bailey and seeing what he does. Seeing him as a rookie and stuff, that’s helped me a lot as well. I’ve talked to Caleb Sturgis, he kicked at Florida and he was a big mentor for me when I was there. So just training with those guys in the offseason and stuff like that has really helped me as far as mechanic wise.”
“He hasn’t kicked a lot of footballs,” said Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia. “He kicked a lot of soccer balls. My experience being around those guys is they kind of know how to kick. I never proclaimed to be a kicking coach in any shape or form, so I’m not gonna try to change anyone’s kicking style or motion just like I wouldn’t change someone’s throwing motion if I was coaching quarterbacks.”
The rookie went undrafted, but the Raiders paid more than the usual amount given to an undrafted player in order to lure him to Oakland. He comes in to compete with incumbent Giorgio Tavecchio who took four years of signing offseason contracts with the Raiders to finally break through with the injury to Sebastian Janikowski.
The two of them are in a battle for the Raiders kicking job. But most indications are the Piñeiro is the favorite to land the job. He has much bigger leg and his best football is in front of him.