Robbie Gould Returns to Miami 13 Years Later for Another Chance at the Super Bowl
MIAMI – The year is 2007 and Robbie Gould is 24-years old, set to play in Super Bowl 41 at Hard Rock Stadium in just his first full season as the Chicago Bears’ placekicker.
The former walk-on kicker at Penn State had already been named to the AP All-Pro team after making 26 consecutive field goals, breaking former Bears’ kicker Kevin Butler’s record of most consecutive field goals. In addition, his 25-yard overtime field goal against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers gave the Bears home field advantage throughout the playoffs, and he later connected on a 49-yard field goal in overtime against the Seattle Seahawks to give the Bears their first divisional playoff win since 1988.
The last step was to knock off Peyton Manning and the red-hot Indianapolis Colts in Miami. Gould made his lone field goal attempt, a 44-yarder, and connected on both of his PATs, but the Colts outgained the Bears 430-265 on their way to a 29-17 win.
Gould believed there would come another day where he’d get another shot at the Lombardi Trophy, but he never anticipated the long route he’d have to take to find his way back to the Super Bowl.
“All I remember is saying ‘This is nothing. I’m going to be back,’ but you never know when you’re going to do it,” Gould said. “You never know how it’s going to happen. You never know when it’s going to happen.”
13 years later, Gould finds himself back in the Super Bowl in Miami once again, but this time as a member of the San Francisco 49ers and a father of three children: Griffin, Gavin and Grayson.
He’ll have 18 family members watching from the stands of Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday, adding that his kids can’t wait to show up wearing their Jimmy Garoppolo jerseys.
"Every game my kids go to I kick a game-winning field goal, so hopefully that’s a good omen that they’re coming to the Super Bowl this year,” Gould said.
Also since the last time he played in the Super Bowl, Gould's brother, Chris, won a Super Bowl as a member of the Denver Broncos’ coaching staff in 2016. “I’ve got to even the score with my brother,” Gould said laughing.
When the Bears released him back in September, 2016 after 11 seasons, Gould exited as the longest-tenured player for the Bears. He ended his career in Chicago as the team's all-time leader in career points (1,207), field goals made (276) and career field goals of at least 50 yards (23).
In the wake of Josh Brown's domestic violence investigation, Gould was then signed by the New York Giants on October 20, 2016 and went a perfect 10 for 10 on field goals that season.
He later signed a two-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers on March 9, 2017 before agreeing to a four-year, $19 million extension with the organization last July.
To this day, Gould still keeps a shadow box of the cleats he wore in Super Bowl 41, and he has received plenty of support from Bears fans throughout the 49ers’ journey to Super Bowl 54.
“It kind of started during the (NFC Championship) week,” Gould said. “The comments of people in Chicago saying ‘Hey go get yourself a ring. You deserve it,’ I just appreciate those fans and Chicago means a lot to me.”
Before the NFC Championship game against the Packers, Gould had missed all four of his field goal attempts from 50 yards or more this season, but early in the second quarter he drilled one from 54 yards, the longest in 49ers’ postseason franchise history.
Gould had a rocky start to the season, making just 12-of-19 field goal attempts during the first six weeks of the regular season, but since then he’s completely flipped the script.
Gould had a very strong training camp, mentioning that he made over 120 kicks during that week, so the slow start was surprising. However, much of that can be attributed to the absence of 49ers long snapper Kyle Nelson, who was suspended 10 games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancing drugs.
Nelson’s 10-game suspension began in Week 14 last year, so he missed last season's final four games and the first six of this season. Through the first six weeks of the season, the 49ers went through three different long snappers before Nelson rejoined the team.
Since Nelson’s return, Gould over his last nine games, including the postseason, has made 15 of his last 16 kicks. The lone miss was a blocked 51-yard kick against the Ravens back on December 1.
“We had an influx of guys come and go, and for me it was just trying to find a rhythm and I felt like every couple weeks I was struggling to find that rhythm,” Gould said. “Right now, for me just having the same regiment of guys working together at a length of time – it’s usually about three weeks when it kind of hits and everything makes sense and feels right. The biggest thing was I was over kicking a bit in the beginning of the year, which probably led to me missing a few more kicks than normal.”
Just as that continuity of having Nelson back in the lineup for the last games has helped Gould, so should playing in the NFL's biggest stage again in the exact same city.
Even after a 13-year hiatus, Gould says the routine will be almost exactly the same as when he was here with the Bears in 2007. He and the 49ers will practice at the University of Miami throughout the week and head over to Hard Rock Stadium on Wednesday to kick and reminisce on some of the memories he made there from Super Bowl 41.
The biggest difference in 2020 is that Gould’s team will be in the visitors’ locker room, which is a lot smaller than Hard Rock Stadium’s home locker room that the Bears used in 2007. At 37, he’s also the oldest player on the 49ers and his previous Super Bowl experience in Miami can only help plenty of his teammates who’ve never been in this spot before.
“Just being able to tell the guys what to expect going into it…just managing the emotions is kind of the biggest thing for this week,” Gould said. “It’s just about telling the young guys to enjoy it because it’s something you’ll remember for the rest of your life.”
In nine career playoff games, Gould has made all 13 of his field goal attempts and all 27 of his PATs. At this point in his career, Gould does not feel much, if any, pressure in these types of big moments, so if the end of the game comes down to his right foot, he’ll be ready for it.
In a game where his team will enter as a modest one-point underdog, Gould could very well be the deciding factor in the same game he played in 13 years earlier.
“I don’t really get nervous. It’s kind of funny,” Gould said. “I have nothing to lose at this point in my career. I’m playing to enjoy the game. I’m playing to enjoy the moment every week and every road trip every time I’m in the locker room. As a young guy, I didn’t really take it all in, and at this point in my career I’m trying to take the experiences I have and try to share them with my kids."
Will Desautelle is a senior majoring in journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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Senior / Broadcast Journalism and Spanish