Imagine the skepticism Giorgio Tavecchio generated when he told people he was a professional football player. Standing 5-foot-10 and weighing 180 pounds, Tavecchio was born in Milan, Italy, and moved to California as a kid. He kicked at Cal and wanted to continue to kick in the NFL, a dream that even God seemingly tried to push him away from. Here's how his pro day went, as detailed by the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
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…
They would’ve seen a kicker who spent months training for his March pro day and was determined to complete the workout as if every scout in the league was observing behind binoculars.
“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.”
Nevertheless, Tavecchio made the practice squad for the San Francisco 49ers in 2012. He spent 2013 on the Packers' practice squad. And 2014 on the Lions'. Finally, Tavecchio landed on the Raiders' practice squad, where he waited behind Sebastian Janikowski -- the most entrenched kicker in the NFL.
But, still, Tavecchio held on to his dream. For five years he was a professional football player without actually playing in a professional football game. But he waited and he stayed ready.
On Saturday Janikowski was placed on injured reserve due to a back injury, pushing Tavecchio into action at long last.
How did he respond?
Tavecchio hit all four of his field goal tries, becoming the first player in league history to nail two field goals of 50-plus yards in his NFL debut. Those kicks provided the winning margin as the Raiders beat the Tennessee Titans, 26-14.
Afterward, head coach Jack Del Rio gave Tavecchio the game ball.
"I've dreamed for years about this moment," Tavecchio said. "And it means so much that I get to share it with you all. To see your smiling faces makes all the hard work, the struggle, the sacrifice, the tears worth it."