Eddy Piñeiro doesn’t forget.
Never mind, it might be more accurate to say he has a great memory. Actually, second that, it’s probably better to say that he remembers everything.
Seriously, he remembers everything.
The Oakland Raiders rookie kicker remembers each of his makes at the University of Florida (38), he remembers how long each of them was, and which way the wind was blowing, but what he remembers the most are the misses (there were just four of them, by the way).
He even remembers the kick he made in front of Nick Saban as a junior college student that changed his life, and essentially earned him his first scholarship offer.
That one was a mere 67 yards; but more on that in a bit.
“I remember all my kicks, what hashes, from what yard line,” said Piñeiro. “I remember which ones I missed the past two years, from what yard line, what hash, it’s crazy. I can remember where the wind was going, from what way to what way, I can remember a lot. That’s weird, right?”
There are hardly any “normal” journeys to the NFL, but Piñeiro’s might be even more unique than most. Born in Miami, a young Eddy followed in his professional soccer player father’s footsteps, playing “the beautiful game” as a prep student, eventually earning a scholarship to Florida Atlantic University.
However, academic issues kept Piñeiro from starting a career as an Owl, so he ended up at ASA College, a junior college in Miami. He continued his soccer career there, but at the behest of his dad, he decided to give kicking a shot once again, on the heels of finding some success there in high school.
“’Your leg is just different from every other kid that we would play,” Piñeiro’s father told him. “Every time we played soccer my shot was just a lot harder than everybody else’s, so he [said], ‘hey, I’m going to take you to a football camp.’”
Now, enter Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Piñeiro agreed to honor his dad’s wish, and give kicking one, final shot, but he was going to do it on his terms.
“I was like, if I’m going to give it one shot, I’m going to go to the best school, and go their camp, and if they don’t offer me, I’m done,” Piñeiro explained. “I told my dad, ‘if they don’t offer me, I’m done playing football.’ I went to Alabama, I beat everybody out, Nick Saban offered me, and it just took off from there. My life changed after that.”
So back to that 67 yarder, Piñeiro booted in front of arguably the best college football coach of all time.
“He [Saban] literally stood up, and just talked to the special teams coach, came back, and said, ‘we’re offering you a full ride,’” Piñeiro said. “I was like, ‘what?’ It was crazy.”
The Miami-native ultimately decided to stay close to home, and elected to head to Gainesville instead of Tuscaloosa, where he ended his career as a Florida Gator as the most-accurate kicker in program history.
Not bad for a guy who had professional soccer aspirations for the first part of his college career.
“It’s been, like I said, it’s been a crazy ride,” Piñeiro recounted. “I feel like God does everything for a reason. I’m here for a reason, and I didn’t get drafted for a reason, and I’m going to have that chip on my shoulder. Everybody said that I couldn’t play in college, I didn’t have the experience, didn’t play in high school, killed it. Ended up the most accurate kicker in UF history, didn’t miss a 50-yard field goal, I had all these accolades, so it’s just proving people wrong.”
Piñeiro’s next challenge took him to California where he signed with the Oakland Raiders as an undrafted free agent, and over the coming months he’ll battle it out with incumbent kicker Giorgio Tavecchio for the right to kick off for the Silver and Black in 2018.
“I just met Giorgio, and he’s such a nice guy,” he said. “He [Tavecchio] has treated me so good, and just showed me what to do on this day, and what to do on that day, it’s just that he’s more accustomed to it than I am, because he’s been here longer than me. He’s just super humble, super, super nice kid, but that’s why you play sports. At the end of the day, it’s to compete, and you’re going to try to beat out the next guy that’s competing against you.”
When Piñeiro touched down in the Bay Area, he was greeted by an incredibly familiar face, Johnny Townsend, who was not only his college teammate at Florida, but his holder as well.
The two are currently roommates, and there might not be a better person to give an informed scouting report on Piñeiro than the only punter currently on the Raiders roster.
“Eddy has one of the strongest legs you’ll ever see in a kicker,” Townsend said. “In my time as a specialist, I’ve never seen anyone that has that much leg talent. He’s a fun player to watch. He gets the crowd into it. He gets the crowd hyped when he hits those long field goals. He’s a real, high-energy player, and what’s cool about him, is pressure doesn’t get to him. No matter how high of a pressure situation it is, whatever the crowd is yelling, he’s just cool through it, and he makes everything.
Piñeiro had no shortage of teams vying for his services after the 2018 NFL Draft wrapped up, but he ultimately decided to head west to California for myriad reasons, not the least of which was the former presence of an NFL legend who grew to notoriety in Piñeiro’s home state.
“[Sebastian] Janikowski, I grew up watching him, and he was like my idol, my inspiration,” Piñeiro explained. ”I’ve always tried, growing up, my mindset was I want to be just as good as Janikowski. I want to be just as good as Janikowski, so just training with that mindset, and I feel like I have the leg strength to be that good, I just have to stay focused.”
No one is doubting the former Gator’s leg strength, but seriously, what’s a realistic range for Piñeiro during a game?
“I think my realistic range is 70,” he said. “Seventy, 75 depending on how the wind is. If you’ve got a hurricane wind, I feel like I could go longer. I feel like, as far as if there’s no wind, sunny day, beautiful day, I’d probably say like my max would probably be like 70…. 68, 70, that range.”
Now those, those would be some hard kicks to forget.