October 22, 2018 Atlanta: Atlanta Falcons replacement kicker Giorgio Tavecchio reacts to making his third fieldgoal of the game against the New York Giants during the fourth quarter during a 23-20 victory in a NFL football game on Monday, Oct 22, 2018, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

Just kicking it around, and schmoozing to boot

Falcons placekicker Giorgio Tavecchio is nailing it, and living life as if a dream

Then again, after seeing him fill in for injured kicker Matt Bryant over the past two games, Falcons center Alex Mack sees the same dude he remembers from his senior season at California, when the kicker was a freshman. 

Never mind that in the six years between Tavecchio’s college career and his real burn in the NFL that he lived with his parents. Mack probably didn’t even know that.

“A small Italian guy who kicked a lot,” Mack recalled. “... He has a pretty big personality, and ... I know he hams up the fact that he’s Italian quite a bit.”

Yeah, a guy who graduated from college in 2012 and went five years before kicking for an NFL team in a regular-season game is now making bacon for real.

Things have changed since Tavecchio began transitioning from soccer to football while in high school in Moraga, Calif.

Believed to be the third Italian-born NFL player when he filled in for the Raiders last season, Tavecchio has picked up where he left off, which seems normal for him.

He’s been cut at least seven times, and here he is having nailed all four field-goal attempts -- including boots of 50 and 56 yards against the Giants -- and all seven of his PATs after last season converting 16 of 21 field-goal attempts and 33 of 34 PATs for Oakland.

If the late and great Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini were still alive, he would work a script around Giorgio, a presence. 

The man from Moraga, near Berkeley, offers results and text.

“It’s a different chapter of the same dream,” he said of his still-short stint with the Falcons after a stellar run in place of Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski. “Every chance you get to put on an NFL jersey, to be able to take the field and play football as a job, it’s an absolute blessing.”

Well, probably, because when he took up football as a sophomore at Campolindo High School, it was half a lark in part attributable to Gabby.

She gave birth to Giorgio in Milan, Italy. 

He said Mom’s an Italian-American, raised in New York City, who upon her overseas assignment for the “American government” met Renato in Milan, but who can know without more time for inspection?

Anyway, the Tavecchios apparently had a couple of boys in short order, Giorio first.

Mom, who the kicker said makes her mark in “law enforcement,” carries weight, and where he will tell you that his father restores antique furniture, he’s not saying jack about mama.

“I’m sorry,” Tavecchio said when asked for more information about mother’s line of work, which he said prompted family moves from Milan to Connecticut, back to Rome, Italy, then to Moraga, then to Washington, D.C. and once again to Moraga, the family home since 2005.

Giorgio’s probably glad his mother was pushy when he was in high school.

“A buddy of mine asked me if I wanted to try out (for football), and I said no. I told my mother and she kind of pushed me to try. She said, ‘You’re in America; try an American sport,’” Tavecchio said. 

“I think she was just sick of us kicking little mini-soccer balls around the house, breaking little vases and frames and stuff.” 

It was a fun hobby, yet he was lining up to play futbol at UC-Davis.

“I was always more of a soccer player and ... my senior year I took (football) more seriously,” he recalled. “I hit puberty, was starting to kick the ball better and attended a couple summer camps going into my senior season, one of which was at Cal, which was 20 minutes from my house.”

Then, he got better.

“I kicked pretty well, but I was more recognized for my long, curly hair, my short-shorts and being Italian, my personality,” he said of his summer camp rep.

“But they could tell I had some talent, so although I didn’t really get much from them ... and wasn’t really getting recruited from anywhere, I focused more on soccer.”

The Cal special-teams coach, Pete Alamar, who was at camp, made a call.

“I wasn’t really getting recruited and focused more on soccer,” Tavecchio recalls. “And then, out of the blue, May 28, at 4:01 p.m. of my senior year of high school ... I got a call from the Cal special-teams coach who said, ‘We’ve got a last-minute walk-on spot as a kicker. If you’re interested, let us know.’”

Alamar is at Stanford now. Tavecchio is two lockers away from Bryant, who flamed the hamstring in his money-maker with a long, game-clincing kick against the Bucs a few weeks ago.

Perhaps no conversation about Giorgio may be considered unusual.

Undrafted out of college, where he made 48 of 64 field-goal attempts (including 20 of 23 as a senior) and 112 of 120 PATs, he got a shot with a free-agent contract the next spring with the 49ers, near home.

He was cut, and has been with and cut by the Lions, Packers, Raiders (four times,) all in the offseason. He’s never spent a day on a practice squad.

So, he’s had to find odd jobs after graduating with a degree in political economy, which he said is a merger of political science and economics.

“I worked as a (writing) tutor (at Cal) one year, worked real estate another year, was like an assistant kicking coach one year at Cal and then moved to New York one year and I was at a Tech company for a couple months,” he said. “I just tried to keep my real-world responsibilities ... 

“Any time I wasn’t at a team, I’d move back home with my parents.”

And he never stopped kicking. At both Cal and his high, he booted.

His kicks for the Falcons -- for whom he kicked in the final exhibition game -- have been strong and spot on, so when coach Dan Quinn was asked about the idea of keeping Tavecchio on the roster even if the 43-year-old Bryant gets healthy, he said it is, “something we’ve discussed.”

Maybe that’s a long shot, but whatever. For all of the unpredictability in Tavecchio’s life, you won’t find surprise in him. He does not fret what may come.

“You try to bring your presence to the moment as much as possible, bring your attention, keep your head where your butt is as one of my old special team coaches used to say, “ he said.

“The future is so uncertain that it would not even be worth (thinking about it). If I’m meant to be here, I’m going to be here, but if I’m not then I’m going to give my best and be wherever I’m called to be.” 

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

Related Stories