PATRIOTS: Rookie Just Wants To Learn From The Best

Training camp for the New England Patriots is no different for rookies than camp at the other 31 teams around the NFL. Realizing their chances to unseat the veteran players ahead of them are a longshot at best, these camp hopefuls work hard to get noticed. With Adam Vinatieri still the team's primary kicker, another #4 is just happy to have the opportunity to learn from the ten-year veteran. PI spoke with Pats kicker Robbie Gould as he prepares for his big chance.

PHOTO: STATE COLLEGE, PA - SEPTEMBER 28: Robbie Gould #4 of Penn State is lifted up by teammate Sean McHugh #42 after Gould hit an extra point to send the game against Iowa into overtime on September 28, 2002 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania. Iowa defeated Penn State in overtime 42-35. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

15 Minutes With Robbie Gould
By Rick Popolizio

Heading into training camp, perhaps the biggest long shot to make the Patriots roster is rookie kicker Robbie Gould. While other hopefuls are battling amongst each other and with current Patriots, Gould is kicking alongside ten-year veteran Adam Vinatieri. But rather than being overwhelmed behind the three-time Super Bowl winner, twenty-two year old Gould sees his situation as a great opportunity. After all, it isn't often that you get to learn from one of the most clutch kickers in NFL history.

"It's been fun and great to watch a Pro Bowler kick and learn from him," said Gould. "I'm trying to be competitive and learn as much as I can."

Although Gould would be thrilled to play anywhere in the NFL, New England is his first choice. The former Penn State kicker has always been a fan of the Patriots, despite growing up in Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania. When it came time to make a decision on where to sign in the NFL, Gould had his sights set on New England.

"My decision came down to New England, Detroit and Pittsburgh, and I thought if I came here I would learn from the best and get experience I need to start off my career," said Gould. "I wanted to learn from Adam Vinatieri and special teams coach Brad Steely. I thought that was the best opportunity to get my career started."

Adam has been very instrumental as far as trying to learn the little things, like onside kicks and tidbits about the game. Watching film with him, he will chime in now and again and say, look at this. He's been great and will tell you whether you're doing well or not. He's just a great guy and definitely is the best [kicker] in the NFL. I'm getting as much as I can from him day in and day out."

So far, Gould feels that he has made the right decision to come to New England. He is learning from one of the best kickers in the league, a great coaching staff and friendly teammates.

"Josh Miller and Lonie Paxton help me out a lot out there," said Gould. "They are just great people whether out on the practice field or in the locker room goofing around. Both of them have taken me under their wing. I am very grateful that they have been good to me."

The coaches have been great." said Gould. "They are here to help you learn your trade and they do a great job teaching everyone from rookies to thirteen-year veterans. I think that's what separates this organization from others."

Gould has been busy working to set himself apart from his competitors in search of a spot on the Super Bowl roster. With mini camp in the past and training camp around the corner, Gould feels that he has performed well so far.

"I've been consistently kicking great," said Gould. "There are some things I need to work on to have a better shot down the road. I've been a little bit stronger with the weight program."

Despite his camp success, come decision time for the final roster, Gould will need to have proven to the coaching staff that he can add something to this team. Unless a camp or preseason injury was to sideline Vinatieri, Gould has virtually no chance as the Patriots starting kicker. During a recent press conference, head coach Bill Belichick talked about what a player like Gould could possibly do to impress him .

" I think if you look at the kicking situation in the National Football League, you're looking at an opportunity and people that can get out there and perform, especially in the preseason games, we all scout those positions pretty hard and we see what's out there," Belichick said.

"You could be, not the starting kicker or punter or snapper for any team, but you know that the team can only carry one guy. If you feel like that player has performed well in preseason and is an upgrade to what you have than another team, then that is how there is movement there. We had that situation a couple of years ago with our kicker that we released that the Giants picked up, that type of thing. He kicked for them, I think, on opening day or the second week whatever it was. That's what those guys have. They get an opportunity, a chance to play in the National Football League and show everybody what they can do. If it is good enough, somebody will recognize it."

Gould realizes his situation that Belichick described, but the question remains how Gould will be able to fit into the roster.

"I really don't know," said Gould. "Hopefully I do well enough that they keep me as a kickoff guy. It's Adam's job and I don't expect to take over. I came here to learn, but if I do well enough, hopefully they will keep me around. But I understand that [Adam] is the best in the business. Pre-season will tell a lot for me. I want to show people that I can compete with the best. That's what I am going to do day in and day out in training camp. Maybe I can stay with the Pats as a kickoff guy or a punter, or maybe I will be picked up by another team."

Gould certainly has the mindset and the credentials to earn a spot on the Patriots roster. In four years at Penn State, the 6'1 179 pound kicker tallied 232 points, fifth most in school history. Gould wanted more.

"My goal was to be number one, but we didn't have quite the season we would have liked to have. But it's great and something I will hopefully be remembered for for a long time. My experience [at Penn State] was great. I enjoyed my teammates and had a great time. It was a good way to get started."

Penn State field goal kicker Robbie Gould (4) watches his second field goal of the game go between the uprights as holder Chris Ganter (3) and a Nebraska defender look on. (AP Photo)

Gould recalled his most cherished college moment. It was the game against Wisconsin during his sophomore year when he went 4 for 4, including a career long 54 yard field goal.

"It helped to seal the game with seven minutes to go," said Gould. "It gave our team a lot of momentum by winning a big game."

Gould will need to be equally as impressive during training camp and preseason as he was against Wisconsin if he hopes to kick for New England. He knows that he has the ability but also that there is plenty of work to be done.

"Right now I've got to improve on my kickoffs," said Gould. "I'm not great at them, but I'm kicking them O.K. I've been able to get by on certain things, but I need to develop as a kicker and get better at my kickoffs."

It hasn't been all work for Gould since he came up to New England. He has also had a chance to enjoy Boston but admitted to a little home sickness.

"It's been fun," said Gould. "We stayed in a hotel for six weeks [during camp]. Now I get to go home and sleep in my own bed and all that good stuff. It's been a good change, me being a country boy from Pennsylvania. But I have been enjoying the city life."

When training camp begins on July 29, Gould will head back to New England and continue to work toward achieving his dream. However, if he doesn't find a way on the Patriots roster or another in the NFL, he has a plan.

"If the NFL doesn't work out, I will start the job search," said Gould. "I graduated with a business management degree. I would like to one day run my own business. I would love to move into a city and work for a big company."

For now, Gould remains a country boy with a good leg and a city dream.

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