Cut seven times, Giorgio Tavecchio's tenacity gave him shot at NFL history

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Seven times Giorgio Tavecchio took the field for the Oakland Raiders on Sunday in Nashville, and you could say each cathartic appearance represented the seven times he had been cut in the NFL.

Seven deadly sins? More like seven ways to win for the place-kicker.

Because it was not that long ago -- this past offseason -- when Tavecchio, after so much training camp heartbreak, seriously considered quitting football. Then came a heart-to-heart with Raiders special-teams coach Brad Seely.

"I understand what you're thinking," Seely said. "I understand what you're feeling."

Said Tavecchio: "We kind of talked through the pingpong battle going on in my head and in my heart. You just have to kind of follow your heart. I knew what my heart wanted.

"Obviously, you want to make it. You want to succeed. You want to be able to be a part of something special, and this is a special place."

It was made more special by Tavecchio's exploits in Oakland's season-opening 26-16 victory against the Tennessee Titans last weekend. Tavecchio had four field goals -- from 20, 52, 52 and 43 yards -- two extra points and kicked off to start the second half.

It came a day after being signed from the practice squad to replace Sebastian Janikowski, the franchise's all-time leading scorer who had been placed on injured reserve with a back issue.

Two days after being signed to the practice squad.

Nine days after being cut by the Raiders to get to an initial 53-man roster.

"Giorgio was kicking the hell out of that ball," said Raiders edge-rusher Khalil Mack. "It was refreshing to see and I'm happy for him."

It was not as if Tavecchio was some random kicker signed off the street. He was with the Raiders the previous four camps after spending time with, and being cut by, the San Francisco 49ers (Seely was with the 49ers at the time), Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions.

So he already had forged deep relationships in Oakland, and who can forget the surreal scene of a famished Tavecchio pulling a sandwich out of his shorts during a lull in practice last summer?

When he was awarded the game ball following the Titans victory, it pulled on many heart strings in the streets of Silver and Blackdom.

"Absolutely amazing," said Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. "Some of these things are like a movie, you know? All four years that I've been here, he's been around in OTAs, he's been around at camp, and then we cut him. 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.

"Talk about a guy that deserves everything that's coming his way. ...He's a good dude and he works his tail off. Whether he had a good day or a bad day, in the four years that I've known him, he's always the same. I know as a kicker that's tough, but I think he's got a good head on his shoulders."

The left-footed kicker, who was born in Milan, Italy, to an American mother and Italian father, grew up in the East Bay town of Moraga, California, and was a soccer player who planned to play at UC Davis.

But the chance to walk on at Cal as a kicker -- he was drawn to his Campolindo High football team by the pregame BBQ -- altered his life and career path.

By the time he left Berkeley, Tavecchio was the Golden Bears' fifth all-time leading scorer, fourth among kickers, with 256 points. He converted 75 percent (48 of 64) of his field goal attempts and 93.3 percent (112 of 120) of PATs in 46 games during three years.

That's when he met up with Seely ... the first time.

Then began the annual heartbreak of being cut.

"Some people would think it would get easier with getting cut, but it actually got harder," Tavecchio said. "The further along you go, the more you grow, the more you believe in yourself, the more you love being around your teammates, your coaches. I consider myself very fortunate to have been called back four years in a row here, whether it was [because he was] good looking or left-footed [like Janikowski], I don't know."

Tavecchio laughed, before quoting Tennyson. He quoted Aristotle after Sunday's game, saying anticipation was the greatest form of pleasure.

"You question, can I keep giving myself in this way only to be dejected again?" Tavecchio said. "It's better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all.

"Sometimes I question that, but again right now, I'm grateful for that. In 20 years, hopefully I'll look back and say, 'Whatever happens, I gave it everything.'"

Before last week, once football season started, Tavecchio would have to go back into the business sector, utilizing his degree in political economy from Cal. He was ready to give up on his NFL dream for good this offseason and take a business job in London ... before that fateful final talk with Seely.

And another camp in Napa.

And Janikowski's back injury.

And the call to join practice squad.

And Sunday in Tennessee, where Tavecchio made NFL history as the first kicker to have two field goals of at least 50 yards in an NFL debut and thus, be recognized as the AFC special-teams player of the week.

"You can imagine, it's been a crazy week for me, the highs and the lows," he said. "But I'm Italian, so I live it. I live it very fully. This was a great week of life for me."

A week. As in seven days. As in how many times Tavecchio had been cut before his date with history.