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Friendly but focused describes Tavecchio

Posted Jul 9, 2013

Ex-Cal kicker's nice-guy approach is no act, but he's ready to compete

GREEN BAY—Giorgio Tavecchio is as friendly as they come.

The young kicker from Cal-Berkeley will say hello and strike up a conversation with any teammate or football staffer in his midst, including fellow kicker Mason Crosby, whose job he wants.

He’s a likeable guy, and as he put it during OTAs, the “last thing” he wants to do is “rough anybody’s feathers.”

But at the same time, he’s here to compete, and the NFL is a cut-throat business. Tavecchio is well aware of that, having been released by San Francisco last year, able to do nothing but wait and hope for another shot.

That shot is now, and while at first blush Tavecchio doesn’t seem to possess the type of steely-eyed, me-against-the-world mentality he might need to win this competition, he promises he can summon it when required.

“Part of the job description is to be able to focus in when everything else seems to be going nuts,” Tavecchio said of being a kicker with all eyes on him.

“When I’m out on the field, it’s just locking in. It’s good practice for what it’s going to be like in the game, when you have to not worry about the snow, the 40-mile-an-hour wind, the fans and all that.”

The smart money is on the Packers’ 2013 kicking job being Crosby’s to lose, but Tavecchio will be doing his best to make the decision as tough on the personnel department as possible.

In the lone head-to-head kicking duel viewed by the media during OTAs, Crosby and Tavecchio both went three-for-three, hitting from 38, 43 and just beyond 50 yards inside the Don Hutson Center. Both kickers had plenty to spare on every kick.

Though it was a small sample, what became evident is that Tavecchio is a different type of kicker, and not just because he’s left-footed. His ball gets up in the air quickly, giving his kicks a higher trajectory than Crosby’s.

That could make his kicks more susceptible to the wind, a possible disadvantage, particularly late in the season in the Midwest. Then, again, they would seem less susceptible to being blocked, though as far as this competition is concerned, that hasn’t been the issue with Crosby, who has had just five of 210 career field-goal attempts (regular season and playoffs) blocked, and none over the last two seasons.

Curiously, Tavecchio did have multiple kicks blocked in his final season at Cal in 2011, which doesn’t fit with the way the ball comes off his foot. In going 20-for-23 on field goals, Tavecchio had two blocked. He also missed six extra points that year, and he suggested some of those were blocked as well.

A lot can go wrong before the kicker’s foot even touches the ball that can lead to blocks. The snap or hold could be off, or the protection unit could break down. Perhaps the genuinely nice guy in Tavecchio didn’t want to disparage any of his former college teammates by delving into the details.

“It was pretty frustrating, but I don’t want to talk too much about those flukes, I call them,” he said.

Whatever the case, training camp will determine whether Tavecchio’s kick-for-kick matching of Crosby during that one open practice was a fluke or a sign of the summer to come. He described his performance that day as “a relief,” because he knows he has a lot to prove.

“To be able to hit a couple good balls and do well, it was definitely satisfying, but it’s one day at a time,” Tavecchio said. “After those kicks were done, I was immediately focused on what’s next and what’s coming up tomorrow, and keep on the grind.”

The grind comes with a smile on Tavecchio’s face. His congenial approach might be characterized as happy-go-lucky by some, but he has his reasons. To hear him tell it, it’s as though friendliness helps him focus.

“If I think too much about the results or what’s going to happen as a consequence of this moment, that’s when you can let that fear come in, and all that worry and all that anxiety,” Tavecchio said. “For me, like I’ve always said, be the best in this moment as possible. Give God my best in this moment, and if I do that in every moment, then I’ll have a lot of great moments.”

 
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