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."