MADISON – Being a part of 21 wins in his first two seasons at Wisconsin, Rafael Gaglianone doesn’t feel like a veteran until he looks around the meeting room and sees a) the amount of talent who is no longer there and b) the small senior class on the roster.
So as he starts preparation for his junior year, the kicker from Sao Paulo, Brazil, has no reservations about stepping into a leadership role.
“It’s up to us to show the young bucks how to do it,” he said.
From kicking three game-winning field goals in his first two seasons at Wisconsin to unleashing a mini salsa dance when the mood strikes, there’s no denying that Gaglianone has a flair for the dramatics.
Bursting on the scene with a 51-yard field goal against LSU, Gaglianone was the answer to Wisconsin’s long-struggling kicking game. He went 19-for-22 as a true freshman, including making his last 14 kicks of the season and hit the game-winner in the Outback Bowl to break UW’s string of bowl futility.
But he was at a lost for answers last season, going only 18-for-27. While he made all eight of his kicks from 29 yards and in, Gaglianone missed three kicks in the 30s, 40s and 50s.
“I wasn’t in a place I wanted to be (physically),” Gaglianone said.
He was limited throughout last spring to rest a sore back, walking stadium stairs instead of kicking footballs through the uprights. He doesn’t attribute that to his struggles last season but admits it probable didn’t help matters, likely leading to him over swinging on attempts to compensate for not feeling strong in the lower body.
“If you put in the work, I feel the results will come in the season, so we’ve got to work hard in the spring,” he said. “Going into my sophomore season, I wasn’t as strong and nowhere near where I should have been. I still felt I was the best option for the guys, and sometimes you aren’t in the best shape possible, but you’ve still got to do what you’ve got to do to help the team.”
Although he had a pair of winning kicks attached to his name, the misses stuck with him. Before kicking a 49-yard field goal with four seconds left to beat Nebraska, 23-21, Gaglianone missed a 39-yard field goal a minute earlier by being out of sync with his approach. A week earlier against Iowa, he made a pair of 46-yard attempts but missed a 42-yard try that altered the game plan in what amounted to a 10-6 home loss.
“I have misses that make me work harder,” Gaglianone said. “Those things will always carry with me, but this year I can’t be looking back and affect me this year. I know it was a tough year for me, but the team still get me chances.”
The story to begin this season has been different. Since the season ended, Gaglianone has worked on losing weight (he’s down about 10 pounds and wants to lose another 10) and change his approach steps by taking shorter strides (he changed that against USC in the bowl game and hit from 28, 33 and the winner from 29).
He’s compacted his process, too, hoping to remove room for error, and also improved his leg strength and cardio so he doesn’t have to over swing on his kicks.
“If you have a 60-yard leg,” he said, “I don’t have to be trying to kill the ball from 40.”
More importantly he feels he’s built a better foundation for himself coming the start of fall camp.
“If you put in the work, you can go into the kick with no conscious,” he said, “knowing you did everything you can to be prepared and help the team out to the best of my abilities.”