When NFL players are on hiatus, they often return to their alma maters to spend time with their former teammates.
Former Bulls place-kicker Bill Gramatica did just that during the spring, as the Arizona Cardinal visited his erstwhile team to watch spring drills.
Gramatica was the third of three consecutive Bulls drafted in the beginning of the fourth round last spring. He made 16-of-20 field goals for the Cardinals last season in his rookie year, as Arizona went 7-9.
“We had a pretty good season as a team,” Gramatica said. “We could do better, but we will. We’ve got a lot of good players coming back and just ready to go for next year.”
Gramatica said the biggest differences between college and the pros are the speed of the game and the close margins.
“I think the biggest difference is the speed of the game – everything’s a lot faster – and also the point differential,” he said. “Every kick is more crucial because in the NFL, you don’t win a game or you don’t lose a game by three touchdowns or something like that. It’s always three to five points as a differential, so your missed kick or your made kick, it weighs more.”
Gramatica said the highlight of his year was kicking the winning 36-yard field goal in overtime of the Cardinals’ 34-31 win at Oakland Dec. 2. In a twist of fate, brother Martin of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers also kicked the game-winner in overtime that day, a 21-yarder to defeat Cincinnati 16-13. They shared the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week award, becoming the first brothers to do so. Gramatica also earned the award the previous week for the winning kick against San Diego.
Gramatica said he and his brothers are often mistaken for each other, and hecklers sometimes told him he wasn’t as good as Martin – an insult that he sees in a positive light.
“Compared to Martin, hey, I’ll take it. He’s a pretty good kicker,” he said.
Two weeks after the Oakland game, Gramatica suffered a season-ending injury in bizarre fashion. After booting a 42-yard field goal in the first quarter of the Cardinals’ 17-13 loss to the New York Giants, Gramatica celebrated in typical Gramatica fashion, and his leaping led to a torn anterior cruciate ligament and torn medial meniscus in his right, non-kicking leg.
Ironically, brother Santiago, the current USF kicker, also suffered a torn ACL in his non-kicking leg, though he kicked all season.
“It was tough for him playing the whole season with a torn ACL,” Bill Gramatica. “I was only able to play one game, so he’s a little tougher than I am.”
He said he is in rehab and should be able to kick in about a month. In the meantime, he observed the Bulls and was impressed.
“I think they’re going to have a great season,” Gramatica said. “I’ve come out to a couple of scrimmages now, and they’ve really come along. They’ve got some players.”