From Practice Squad to Playoffs: Former Patriot Kicker Finding Success
By Ricky Popolizio
"I'm taking it day-by-day," he said. "If I do well enough day in and day out, hopefully I will make it. If not, maybe someone else will see something they like, and it will work out somewhere else."
Gould, raised in Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania but always a Patriots fan, answered the question regarding his future with the Pats candidly and like a New England Patriot. Now with the playoffs approaching, the longtime Pats fan has a chance to make a run at the Super Bowl. Except now he is the starting kicker, for the Chicago Bears.
"Anything can happen in the playoffs," said Gould. "[The Super Bowl] is a long ways away. It's a three game season for us. Obviously I'll be watching New England this weekend because I always try to keep in touch with how those guys are doing. Now it's a matter of taking one game at a time and really just going from there."
The twenty-three year old is still taking things day-by-day nearly six months removed from training camp in New England, but things have changed for the rookie. Those changes began with an unexpected phone call on October 9th.
"It was a whirlwind really because I didn't have time to think about being on the team," said Gould. "I went right from trying out to signing my contract and putting the pads on. It felt good to accomplish my dream and sign with a team in the NFL, and everything has worked out up to this point."
Everything is working out for Gould, and the Bears postseason promise is high. But things weren't perfect from the outset. Gould made only seven of his first 11 field goals for the Bears, although four were between 40 and 49 yards. He was also quick to point out that his "30-something yard" missed field goal against San Francisco was due to the 47 mph gusting winds that made everything difficult that day.
"The only one I missed inside 40 yards was with 50 mph winds," said Gould. "They had it on the bloopers."
Still, Gould makes no excuses and knows his kicking game has room for improvement.
"It's one of those things where I've got to improve on long range field goals. On the same token, Chicago is not an easy place to kick. I need to go out each day and improve, and everything will come around and that just comes with experience.
I was missing long field goals, and everyone stuck by me. They were saying it's only his second game in NFL. It's been a great feeling, just thinking I can go out there with nothing to lose. I've worked really hard to get to this point, and I'm going to work really hard to stay at this point. I'm like any other rookie, just trying to gain respect in the NFL."
Gould has done as he said he would, steadily gaining experience and improving with time. Since week 12, Gould has put 12 of 14 kicks through the uprights, including one 40-yarder and a career high 45 yard kick. In week 16 against Green Bay, he nailed a 53 yard try, but it was called back on a holding penalty. Still, Gould's long-range improvement has given a newfound coolness to his game.
"It has felt great," said Gould. "[The long kicks] are confidence boosters, and they let everyone know I can do it. I'm having fun with it and that's really all I can do. That's what it's about."
His progress comes with little surprise. His demeanor, his work ethic, his ability, is all top-notch. And he had great mentors along the way. First it was Adam Vinatieri, one of the greatest clutch kickers of all-time, by the then 22-year-old's side. It was also Patriots special teams coach Brad Seely, punter Josh Miller and longsnapper Lonie Paxton that aided Gould along the way.
"They helped me in meetings, in learning the ways of the NFL on and off the field as well, as far as technique and poise and trying to learn how long it might take to accomplish certain things," said Gould. "They were always picking my brain about NFL Europe. I'm getting tired of hearing the questions, but they all helped me out. I have nothing but great things and thank yous for each and every one of them.
I talk to Brad, Josh and Lonie on a weekly basis," said Gould. "I hold them in high regards because they helped me get to where I'm at today and helped me to have the success I've had. And you never know maybe we'll meet them in the Super Bowl this year."
Lucky for Gould, his departure from one of the NFL's premier organizations was to another group of quality personnel all around.
"It was easy. The guys are great. It is just a matter of where you want to kick it and put it through the uprights here. The players have been great from the get-go and it has made my transition a lot easier.
Definitely [special team coordinator] Dave Toub, [punter] Brad Maynard, [longsnapper] Patrick Mannelly. They are veteran guys who have been around for eight or nine years. They have helped me not to get discouraged. Early on it was just a matter of getting adjusted to the NFL. I settled down after the first two games and matured pretty quickly. It's just a matter of them continuing to help me, and hopefully I will continue to grow and mature."
Gould has had great personnel and opportunity surrounding him since entering training camp in New England, but it is his own will and determination that has taken him from one team's practice squad to another's starting lineup. Now he has the chance to make more than just one dream come true in his rookie season. And he is in position to make his mark in the NFL.
"It's a great feeling to have the chance to make a run to go to the Super Bowl. It feels great to get where I'm at today. You can't just stop because of what happened. Now hopefully one day I will be known as one of the best kickers in the NFL."
Gould still has a ways to go before he is recognized in the NFL as a first-rate kicker, but he is doing the right things. The playoffs are the ultimate platform for all players, including kickers, who are forced into high-pressure situations almost every game. The success of a team in the playoffs often rests on the leg and the courage of kickers. That's why the New England Patriots value Adam Vinatieri so highly. It is also why Gould has strived to be like the Patriots all-time leading scorer. Now Gould might have a chance to compete against the team he has always held an allegiance to.
"It would be awesome just to play against them," said Gould. "I hope we play them next year. It would be fun. It would be like playing your old friends in like a backyard football game."
Gould did admit that despite his recent success, the move from his beloved team to Chicago was somewhat bittersweet in the beginning.
"It definitely was. Not many people get to play for their favorite team. I got that opportunity to learn from the best. That's allowed me to have the success I've had on and off the field. I've met a lot of great people and I'm just thankful that I've gotten this opportunity. I'll always hold that with me and hopefully sometime down the way, it will be me hitting the game winner instead of Adam."
If the Bears defense is up to the task this postseason, that day may come sooner than Robbie Gould is expecting.