This article first appeared in the Cal Kickoff Gameday Magazine, Oct. 22, 2011
By Doug Drabik
Senior placekicker Giorgio Tavecchio joined the California football team as a walk-on three days before the 2008 season. His abbreviated work with the Golden Bears was enough to impress the coaching staff that the newcomer was called on to handle the placekicking duties in the season opener against Michigan State on his fourth day with the program.
"I was just getting used to school, Tavecchio said. "I remember walking through the tunnel before the game and looking around and saying what did I get myself into. The hair on the back of my neck just stood up. I was so excited. I feel I am very blessed to have had that experience."
Three years after making his collegiate debut against the Spartans, Tavecchio has developed into the Golden Bears' full-time placekicker on field goals and PATs. He took over the starting role in 2010 and has been a standout on the special teams unit ever since. The kicker has totaled more than 200 points in his Cal career and is among the school's all-time scoring leaders. He made his first eight field goals of the 2011 season, including a 52 and a 54-yarder at Oregon earlier this month.
Tavecchio's work on the field has also earned him a scholarship at Cal and he is very grateful for every opportunity he has received.
"I consider myself blessed," the senior said. "I have always been told that if you work hard at something, good things will happen and good things have definitely happened for me."
While California rewarded him for his hard work on the field, a very modest Tavecchio has a passion for rewarding others off the field.
The senior, who grew up in Milan, Italy and has also resided in Connecticut and Virginia before arriving in Moraga, has taken a great interest in serving his community wherever he has been. Whether it is helping train high school kickers, working in the soup kitchen with his family at the Saint Mary's Center back in Moraga, participating in Athletes in Action events on campus, or trading letters with the child he sponsor back in Honduras, Tavecchio wants to help others any way he can.
"I really enjoy all the different things I have had the opportunity to get involved with," Tavecchio said. "I am happy to assist others whenever I can, but I can always be doing more. All the different things I am involved with are as important to me as anything I do."
The Italian native also works with fellow Italian student-athletes, assisting them in their transition to the United States and helping teach them the English language.
Tavecchio's favorite moments come during a two-hour span each Monday when the senior travels to John Muir Elementary School in Berkeley where he serves as a mentor to a five-year-old boy enrolled at the school. He helps with the individual's studies and the two enjoy different structured recreational activities.
"I am so lucky to have received a lot from every community I grew up in," Tavecchio said. "I want to give back and make other people's situation better. I can always be doing more. My family has always instilled in me that we can help others as best as possible. I try to be a positive influence and serve as a role model to help motivate children."
Tavecchio is also a standout in the classroom where the political economy major carries a 3.711 cumulative grade point average and is on track to graduate in May.
"Political economy is very interesting to me," said Tavecchio, who has earned Pac-10 All-Academic honors each of the past two seasons. "They go hand-in-hand and it is very exciting to study how one affects the other. I have thought about a position in the State Department down the road."
The senior was recently named a semifinalist for the National Football Foundation's prestigious William V. Campbell Trophy, honoring excellence in academics. Former Golden Bear Alex Mack was the recipient of the trophy often referred to as the `Academic Heisman' in 2008 and Mike Mohamed was a finalist for the award last season.
"I was shocked when I heard the news that I was a finalist," said Tavecchio. "To be mentioned with Alex and Mike is an honor. Academics have always been very important to me."
The Milan native, who grew up riding a bike with his father on the cobblestone streets in the Italian city, has found a home here in Berkeley.
"I am so lucky to be here and have grown so much not only as a player but as a person," the senior said. "I am very fortunate to experience it all the past three years. It has been magical.
"I have been on this incredible journey and I hope to keep it going forever."