Points just the start of Robbie Gould’s Bears legacy
BY ADAM L. JAHNS Staff Reporter December 7, 2013 1:18AM
Robbie Gould celebrates his game-winning field goal in the playoffs against Seattle in January 2007. Nearly seven years later, he’s at 997 career points. | Sun-Times Media Library
Updated: January 9, 2014 6:29AM
Robbie Gould was working in construction and felt fortunate to be there.
Out of football in October 2005, he was employed by a friend’s construction company in Mill Hall, Pa., his high-school town.
After being cut by the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens, Gould, after four years as Penn State’s kicker, just wanted his phone to ring again.
‘‘You really couldn’t find a regular job. You couldn’t tell an employer that I’m going to leave in two days or a week later,’’ Gould said. ‘‘It was just one of those jobs where I could get up early, be done by 3 p.m. and work out and kick and do it all over again and just wait for the next phone call.
‘‘Luckily, I got a call from the Bears.’’
As it turned out, the Bears became the lucky ones.
How does one become one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history?
‘‘His attitude and the way that he gets himself motivated to kick every day is nothing like I’ve ever seen,’’ punter Adam Podlesh said.
‘‘He always put pressure on himself,’’ said Cleveland Browns special teams coordinator Chris Tabor, a Bears special-teams assistant from 2008 to 2010. ‘‘If there was six kicks in practice in front of the team, he was always like, ‘I’m going to make them all.’ ’’
Gould, 31, hasn’t made all of his kicks in nine seasons with the Bears, but he has made more than most. He’s the third most accurate kicker in NFL history (229 of 267) and has been a kick away from being No. 1 twice.
But that’s only part of his legacy.
Gould is three points shy of 1,000 in his career, trailing only Kevin Butler (1,116) in Bears history and on the verge of becoming only the 52nd player to reach that mark.
‘‘Something that’s pretty special about getting 1,000 points is that there’s not many guys that do it with one organization,’’ Gould said.
Long snapper Patrick Mannelly, Gould’s best friend on the team, remembers Gould’s tryout when Doug Brien was hurt in October 2005. His natural talent stood among a group of kickers.
‘‘You could tell he was a little raw, but he had the ability,’’ Mannelly said.
It was matter of harnessing it, learning more and mastering the challenges of Soldier Field.
‘‘People don’t understand that there a lot of situations that happen in field-goal kicking that I had to learn that I didn’t know,’’ Gould said. ‘‘There’s also different situations kicking in Chicago with wind and rain, sometimes soggy fields. You have to figure out quickly how to overcome those situations and make the most of it. If you don’t, you’re not going to stay around and have a job for very long.’’
Tabor also praised Gould for his kickoffs, saying ‘‘he has a lot of clubs in his bag.’’
‘‘The Bears have latched onto a good one there,’’ Tabor said. ‘‘He’s one of the great ones. There’s no doubt about that.’’
Mannelly also has learned never to doubt Gould, who admits to still being bothered by his overtime miss last week against the Minnesota Vikings.
‘‘Some guys, it affects them more when they miss one or are off a little,’’ Mannelly said. ‘‘He watches a lot of tape and critiques himself and watches a lot of kickers and learns from them. He’s a student of the kicking game. He corrects himself when he has the down time, which some kickers I think can’t do.’’
Special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis said Gould has ‘‘a real player’s mentality.’’
‘‘He’ll bring things up from a schematic standpoint and things that he’s studied,’’ DeCamillis said. ‘‘He’s studying other kickers for me and looking at other guys for me.
‘‘He’s an actual football player who just happens to be kicking.’’
Podlesh remembers the call he received from Gould when he joined the Bears in 2011.
‘‘Totally indicative of his personality and the type of person that he is, he immediately pretty much offers me the shirt off his back,’’ Podlesh said. ‘‘He was the guy that helped me get situated in Chicago.’’
Those types of stories have come to epitomize Gould as much as his kicking consistency in Chicago, whether it’s leading a trip to Washington, Ill., to aid tornado victims or giving away $300,000 in grants through his charity this year.
‘‘In the place-kicker world, there’s not as many that are beloved by the city as him — for good reason,’’ Podlesh said.
‘‘I feel bad letting them down as much as my teammates,’’ Gould said.
Ask Gould about it and he lists a number of coaches and teammates he’s thankful for. He said he’ll remember them, while his field goals, including 11 game-winners, tend to blend together.
He’s not done making them. Not even close.
“I’m going to play until they kick me out, honestly,” Gould said. ‘‘I think I can play for a really long time.’’
Saying that, Gould, who is in the final year of his deal, can’t help but drift back to how it all started.
‘‘There were five guys here, and they said they weren’t going to keep anybody,” he said. ‘‘It went from not keeping anybody to saying, ‘Hey, we need you for three weeks. Can you make extra points?’’ I said, ‘Sure,’ and nine years later, here I am again trying to finish out a year and hopefully continuing my career as a Bear.’’