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Gramatica goes out with a huge bang

The placekicker nails a 63-yarder in his final game as a Bull.


© St. Petersburg Times, published November 19, 2000

TAMPA -- Bill Gramatica's big appearance on ESPN's College GameDay has been pushed back week after week, from late October to Nov. 11 to Saturday and finally, tentatively, to Dec. 2. More than a month ago the network filmed a piece on the South Florida senior kicker, his brother Martin and the rest of the family.

Could it be that ESPN needed something to kick it up a notch?

If so, the network got it Saturday, when Gramatica booted a record 63-yard field goal. On the field where Martin has kicked game-winners for the Bucs, Bill made his mark on the history books.

Gramatica's kick ranks as the second longest without a tee in all of Division I, just behind the 65-yarder Martin kicked as a senior at Kansas State two years ago. The field goal also is the longest without a tee in Division I-AA history, tying him with Arkansas State's Scott Roper and Tim Foley of Georgia Southern, who both kicked 63-yarders on Nov. 7, 1987.

True to form, Gramatica's celebration matched the moment.

Always effusive, he went wild after the kick, jumping up and down, sliding like a baseball player, rolling on the grass, retrieving his left shoe from holder Kevin Patullo and kissing the shoe -- he's left-footed -- before hugging everyone in sight.

But he wasn't alone. Even the officials looked downright triumphant as they signaled the field goal good.

"This was one of the most emotional games I've ever played," Gramatica said. "For coach (Jim) Leavitt to give me the opportunity, it just shows what kind of person he is. ... As soon as I kicked it (quarterback) Marquel (Blackwell) came running out from the sidelines. After that it was the whole team, just hugging me."

He said he was especially thankful to senior long snapper Ryan Benjamin, who made every snap for Gramatica and has always "treated me like a brother," he said.

Real brother Martin was in Chicago with the Bucs, but Bill's mother, usually too nervous to watch, attended for only the second time. His father and younger brother, Santiago, who will kick for the Bulls next season, also were there.

Gramatica and Leavitt had talked about attempting such a long kick. At Connecticut with a strong wind at his back he lined up for a 62-yarder but was foiled by a delay of game penalty.

Gramatica, a I-AA All-American in 1998, hopes the kick helps him follow Martin to the NFL.

"I know kickers don't get drafted as much," he said. "But my goal is to get a shot. I'd like to get drafted, but if it doesn't happen, it won't discourage me one bit."

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