David Akers finds his 'Mini-Me' with Tavecchio

864245.jpg

David Akers finds his 'Mini-Me' with Tavecchio

SANTA CLARA -- Giorgio Tavecchio's path was set. His plan was to play soccer at UC Davis. But, then, he received the most unexpected of phone calls.

"I didn't get any bites for football," Tavecchio said. "Nobody else was talking to me about football. Cal, out of the blue called and said, 'Hey, we have a walk-on spot for you.'

"I still remember the date: May 28, 2008, 4:01 p.m. That's the minute my life changed."

There's another important date in Tavecchio's life. It was May 2, 2012 -- exact hour and minute, unknown.

That's when the kicker signed with the 49ers as an undrafted free agent. And that's when he was locked into the fortunate role of veteran David Akers' understudy.

"It's been a blessing. From a kicking standpoint, we're very similar. We're both lefties and we have the same kind of technique," Tavecchio said.

"In the past couple of years when I got more into football and started watching the NFL, I noticed this really good lefty from Philly who was nailing kicks. When I realized my path was going to end up here in San Francisco, I knew he'd be here. The more I looked into him and talked to people about him, I kept hearing fantastic things. He has far exceeded all my expectations, as far as being a great kicker but also a really good person off the field."

Akers, who enters his 14th NFL season, is a six-time Pro Bowl selection. He set the NFL single-season record a year ago with 44 field goals and most points (166) without a touchdown.Obviously, Akers' status with the 49ers has never been in doubt. But Akers said he believes Tavecchio will some day find regular employment in the NFL.

"He reminds me a lot of me," Akers said. "He came in real green. He has a good leg. He's worked on his craft. He's improved. He still has to kind of figure out the games and put the professionalism into it. But that's a process you learn from."

Akers originally signed with the Carolina Panthers an undrafted free agent in 1997. Akers credits veteran kicker John Kasay for providing him with as much assistance as possible. The next year with the Atlanta Falcons, Akers continued to learn as a camp kicker behind Morten Andersen. After also getting released by the Washington Redskins, Akers moved on to Philadelphia, where he continued to learn from kicker Norm Johnson and punter Sean Landeta.

"Those are some big-time specialists in NFL history," Akers said. "Those guys really poured out to me, so I felt like it was my duty to do that with Giorgio and I feel like he's really responded. I feel like I have a little 'Mini-Me' here."

Coach Jim Harbaugh observes that Tavecchio is taking full advantage of his association with Akers.

"He's done just what he should be doing and that is being in David's hip pocket, asking him questions, watching every stroke that David puts on the ball, every conversation that David has with the holder and the snapper," Harbaugh said.

"He's been a sponge in that regard. He has grown exponentially. He is an outstanding kicker and a lot of that has been from being around David and (special-teams coordinator) Brad Seely this offseason."

Tavecchio played 46 games at Cal and finished his career with 256 points to rank fifth on the school's all-time scoring list and fourth among kickers. He made 48 of 64 (75 percent) field-goal attempts and 112 of his 120 (93.3 percent) extra-point tries in his career.

"It was such a blessing to go to school there," Tavecchio said. "I grew every year, through the struggles and successes. That's why I love football. I feel like I grew a lot and I hope to grow a lot moving forward."

Tavecchio knows what it's like to do a lot of moving. His mother, Gabriella, worked for the U.S. Government. His father, Renato, restored antique furniture in Italy. They met when her furniture was damaged in a move to Italy.

"He never left his little hometown in Italy until he met my mom and she took him around the world," said Giorgio, 22.

Tavecchio lived in Milan, Italy, Connecticut, Rome, Moraga, Virginia and back to Moraga, where the family has lived since 2005. He played football and soccer his final three years at Campolindo High, where he was an all-league soccer player on the North Coast Section champs as a senior.

Now, he's all about football. And he landed in a perfect situation to learn from one of the best.

Tavecchio did all the kicking in the 49ers' exhibition opener Aug. 10 against the Minnesota Vikings. He made a 29-yard field goal and both extra-point attempts. Last week, while Akers made three field goals, including kicks of 50 and 55 yards, Tavecchio handled kickoff chores. He blasted two kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks.

"You've just seen so much improvement," Harbaugh said. "He was already good to start with, with good tools. He's a long way from being a carpenter, but he's a lot closer now after spending this time with David Akers."

Said Tavecchio, "He (Akers) feels like he's passing the torch to me, which I'm incredibly thankful for. That's what I hope to do in future for some young kid."

Jim Harbaugh: I deserve a medal for lasting so long under 49ers ownership

Jim Harbaugh: I deserve a medal for lasting so long under 49ers ownership

In Kyle Shanahan’s first breath after being introduced as 49ers head coach on Feb. 9, he mentioned Jim Harbaugh, along with Bill Walsh, George Seifert and Steve Mariucci.

The head coach of Michigan was listening, and he appreciated the gesture.

“It was very flattering that he said nice things about us at his news conference, and I appreciated that,” Harbaugh said on "The TK Show," a podcast from Tim Kawakami of the Bay Area News Group.

“Now, I don’t think I was there long enough to be compared with Bill Walsh or Coach Seifert, etc. But I think did – and correct me if I’m wrong – I think we did set a record for coaching there the longest under the present ownership, if I’m not wrong.”

That is correct.

Since John and Denise York took over control of the 49ers in 2000 from Denise’s brother, Eddie DeBartolo, the 49ers have employed eight head coaches. Mike Nolan was fired after seven games of his fourth season. The two coaches who followed Harbaugh -- Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly -- were fired after 5-11 and 2-14 seasons, respectively.

Harbaugh’s teams advanced to the NFC Championship Game in each of his first three seasons, including a Super Bowl appearance. He and the 49ers “mutually parted ways,” the club announced, immediately after the team finished with an 8-8 record in 2014.

“I take pride in that,” Harbaugh said. “Maybe there should be an endurance medal, a courage medal, for that.”

Shanahan mentioned Harbaugh during his opening remarks at the introductory press conference earlier this month:

“I’ve got to start out thanking Jed and the whole York family. Giving me this opportunity is, it’s a dream come true and it’s not just an opportunity to be a head coach, but to be a head coach at a place like this where you talk about Bill Walsh, you talk about George Seifert, Steve Mariucci, Jim Harbaugh and you can go down the line with the coaches.”

Said Harbaugh, “Just appreciated it. Appreciated it, and not just for me personally, but appreciated that for all the wonderful players we had and the wonderful coaches and the effort that was put in. People poured their hearts and souls into those years. It’s just appreciated that Kyle would make that comment.”

Harbaugh said he has deep respect for Shanahan and new 49ers general manager John Lynch, whom Harbaugh asked to speak to his Stanford teams during his four-year tenure as head coach.

“Yeah, I would’ve loved to have worked for John Lynch,” Harbaugh said. “He reminds me a lot of the athletic director we have here Warde Manuel, who’s also a former player and a teammate of mine. Common sense guys who are team guys, just the way they go about their business always speaks volumes.

“I thought John took note when they were going through the process. e didn’t want his name mentioned and I think that’s . . . I don’t know if a lot of people noticed that, but I think that’s a profound thing. I think that speaks volumes for who he is as a person. He wants to do a good job and it’s for the right reasons. He’s a competitor at the highest level, so I have great respect for that.”

Kawakami also asked Harbaugh about whether he believes quarterback Colin Kaepernick is still capable of being an NFL starter.

“There’s no doubt he can be an NFL starting quarterback,” Harbaugh said.

“I’m sure Kyle, the coaching staff there and John will meet on it, they’ll think about it, they’ll watch, much like we did when we got in there in 2011. And they’ll make the best decision they can for the team and the organization and it’ll play out the way it’s going to play out.”

Lynch's hirings of Peters, Mayhew left no room for Gamble

Lynch's hirings of Peters, Mayhew left no room for Gamble

During the month the 49ers had no general manager or head coach, Tom Gamble was the next-highest-ranking football official and was charge of the personnel department on an interim basis.

But CEO Jed York made it clear from the beginning Gamble, whom Trent Baalke promoted to assistant general manager just prior to the start of training camp last summer, would not be considered for a promotion to general manager.

John Lynch, with no front-office experience, was hired over Arizona’s Terry McDonough and Minnesota’s George Paton. Before Lynch’s introductory press conference, he hired two top lieutenants in the personnel department to usurp Gamble on the organization's power structure.

On Wednesday, the 49ers announced what had become inevitable: Gamble was leaving the organization.

“I must thank Jed, the York family and the entire 49ers organization for the wonderful memories they provided me and my family, but it is time I move on,” Gamble said in a statement. “This past month, I have had the pleasure of working alongside John Lynch and the talented staff he has assembled. The team is in capable hands and I wish them nothing but the best.”

Lynch’s first move as general manager was to hire Adam Peters away from the Denver Broncos to serve as 49ers vice president of player personnel.

Lynch worked alongside Peters when Lynch took part in Broncos meetings and prospect evaluations, which included a trip to the NFL scouting combine, prior to the 2013 draft.

“That month, month-and-a-half, I actually sat next to Adam every day,” Lynch told CSNBayArea.com. “Those are long meetings. I’d listen to him and we’d talk in between about players. I just saw way back then, he’s a guy who’s highly respected in the league. I firmly believe in two, three years, he would’ve been a GM. He was on that track, at least.”

During Lynch’s introductory press conference a week later, he announced the hiring of Martin Mayhew as senior personnel executive. Lynch and Mayhew were teammates in the secondary for Lynch’s first four NFL seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Mayhew spent seven seasons as Detroit Lions general manager. Mayhew should be able to provide Lynch with valuable counsel as learns on the job after spending the past eight seasons as a TV analyst on FOX.

“Martin has sat in the seat as a general manager and his experience will play an integral role in helping us locate the type of football player we want representing this organization both on the field and in the community,” Lynch said.

Gamble recently completed his 29th NFL season and his 10th with the 49ers in two stints. After he was fired as Philadelphia Eagles vice president of personnel late in the 2014 season, and came back to the 49ers in the 2015 offseason.

While with the Eagles, Gamble was one of the few individuals in the front office who worked well with Chip Kelly. Gamble played an important role in speaking up for Kelly and bringing him to the 49ers last offseason.

Kelly and Baalke were fired after the 49ers' 2-14 season, and the 49ers promoted the ability to create a fresh start when a new coach and general manager. While the 49ers were expecting Gamble to remain with the organization through the draft, his spot with the organization was going to be tenuous with a new regime.

“He is a class act who has helped a great deal in this transition, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know him,” Lynch said in a statement. “After working together over the last month, Tom and I agreed that it would be in both of our best interests for him to pursue other opportunities.”