“All good things must come to an end.” The meaning of that saying is pretty simple, really. Great things in life cannot last forever. Everything is temporary.
To have the kind of playing-career experience that I had in the NFL was nothing short of amazing, and my level of gratitude for the journey — the ups, the downs, the in-between — is immeasurable. In short, my NFL story is hard to believe, and it’s filled with a plethora of “pinch-me” moments.
It’s best explained from the beginning. I weighed 150 pounds soaking wet in high school, so upon graduation, the combined total of D-I scholarship offers in my inbox was a whopping zero. By a twist of fate, I walked on at Penn State and played under the late Joe Paterno.
My senior season in Happy Valley, however, was disappointing, and I went undrafted. In fact, I wasn’t sure if an NFL opportunity would ever present itself. But on the last day of the draft, I shockingly received a call from the Patriots and was offered a contract to join their team for the off-season.
Coming off a 2005 Super Bowl victory, New England was the perfect team for me to learn anything and everything about how to win in the NFL. Upon arrival, it took me a minute to process that I was in the same room with a team and players I had rooted for as a kid. Future Hall of Famer Adam Vinatieri was my mentor. There was no obligation for him to take me under his wing, but from the moment I walked into that facility, I immediately felt welcomed. In addition to Adam, all the leaders on that Pats team — Josh Miller, Lonie Paxton, Tom Brady, Mike Vrabel, Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi — provided me with a top-level introduction to the league. More importantly, they instilled in me the importance of all the little details that lead to winning at the highest level.
Had my career not started in New England with Bill Belichick, Brad Seely, and the Kraft family, I wholeheartedly believe that it wouldn’t have taken the same trajectory that it did.
Shortly after New England, I headed to Baltimore. I’ll never forget Deion Sanders and Ed Reed’s weekly rookie dinners back then. Not only did those gatherings strengthen camaraderie among teammates, but Deion and Ed would give advice on how to succeed in the NFL — emphasizing work ethic, and the necessities to win. Just like in New England, I was a sponge the entire time, consuming every bit of knowledge I could. There’s no doubt in my mind that those early experiences and individuals showed me exactly how teammates should lead.
I left both cities in awe of what I had absorbed and how I was accepted. Though I was a member of the Ravens’ practice squad and was cut soon after, I never felt any less significant than any other player. That spoke volumes.
After being released by both teams, it’s safe to say that the NFL dream of mine felt like it might be over before it had even begun. And my work boots and 9-to-5 construction job were waiting for me when I returned home to Lock Haven, Pennsylvania. Back to reality.
At the time, the Chicago Bears’ GM was Jerry Angelo, and on a Thursday afternoon in October, his assistant called the number at the construction company office asking for me to come in for a tryout. I greeted the call, listened briefly, and then, of course … I hung up on her.
I thought it was one of my college buddies pranking me.
Moments later, she calls back. I hang up again. Once more, I try putting the joke to rest. I quietly mumble, “O.K., O.K., real funny, guys. But seriously, I have to get back to work.” It wasn’t until the third time that I realized it wasn’t a joke, and to this day, I still have no idea how the Bears found me at that job.
I hustled to the airport, jumped on the next flight out, and landed in Chicago after midnight. My tryout was the following morning at 9:30, and by 11:30, I was signing a contract to play for the next three weeks. I couldn’t believe it. Even if it was just a short-term offer, I was a Chicago Bear!
Everything had happened so quickly. My first NFL game was only two days away, and we were leaving the next day to head to Cleveland. The logistics of away-game expectations flooded in, and one that caught me off guard was the dress code policy. I vividly remember the Bears telling me that I needed something presentable to wear on the plane. But nothing I had packed met the requirement, so after that first practice, I hustled to a Men’s Warehouse down the street from the facility to buy the first suit that fit me.
Right from the start, the mentorship I received from both my teammates and the coaches in the Bears organization was unmatched. Early on, I was taught how to manage the rigors of an NFL schedule and what needed to be done to meet the overall expectations that are put on a player in the league. Brad Maynard and Patrick Mannelly, the best at their positions, single-handedly shaped my career. Special teams coaches Dave Toub, Joe DeCamillis, and Kevin O’Dea were instrumental in taking my talent to the next level. As a young athlete, I couldn’t have asked for a better circumstance.
But with an understanding that my opportunity in Chicago was short-lived, it was up to me to take that opportunity and make it a career for myself from that day forward. From the get-go, my mentality was, “If you get the job, don’t let anyone else take it from you.”
That way of thinking meant I had to push myself in ways that were out of the ordinary, and also do more than what was asked of me. I’d study everything I could about how kick returners moved or how field-goal-block schemes worked. I insanely studied game plans, and even weather reports, like my job depended on it … because in Chicago, the weather literally could be the downfall of an unprepared kicker. My rigidly organized, Type-A personality never wanted to be surprised by any situational circumstance.
In addition to my proactiveness, I have a pretty competitive nature — I play best with a chip on my shoulder, and that’s always been a big part of my mental preparation. Because of it, I’d invent grudges or even come up with slights to get me fired up throughout the course of my career.
The rest is history. A three-week temporary job ended up lasting 11 amazing seasons in Chicago.
From start to finish, I loved everything about my time in Chicago. Lovie Smith and Jerry Angelo created a team-first culture by assembling a locker room full of future Hall of Famers. To be able to go to work every day surrounded by guys like Brian Urlacher, Julius Peppers, Olin Kreutz, Roberto Garza, Charles Tillman, Lance Briggs, and dozens of other first-rate guys — it was the best football home imaginable. We had some deep playoff runs, and we made a ton of memories. The McCaskey family gave me the opportunity to live out my childhood dream, and it was an honor to play for them. Ultimately, I hope that we made Bears fans proud. They deserve it.
In addition to how much I loved playing for that team and its fans, the city of Chicago became my home. It’s where I met my wife, and we’ve raised our three boys there. The nostalgia I feel for that wonderful city — the connection — makes it hard to imagine living life with my family anywhere else.
Nearly a dozen years after beginning my NFL journey, I continued my career in New York with the Giants, playing for another historic NFL franchise. Six weeks into the 2016 season, I signed a contract with the Giants in London on a Saturday. On that Sunday, I was playing my first game with the G-Men. The ownership group, the organization, the stadium personnel, and the teammates — the level of detail those individuals took to make sure I was comfortable in a new city was something I tried my best to mimic at my future stops.
A free agent the following season, I headed to San Francisco to join the Niners. It didn’t take more than two words to convince me that I wanted to play in that city. Kyle. Shanahan. His personal talent as arguably the best coach in the business, combined with that offense? I had zero hesitation about wanting to be a part of that culture. San Francisco may not have had the best record at the time, but the thought of what that team could become from a long-term perspective was impressive to me.
At that point in my career, my kids were old enough to enjoy the experience with me, and that was so much fun for our family. They quickly formed relationships with the equipment guys on game days, as they’d let my boys shine up helmets and fold towels. We started a countdown for Thursday night “Pies with the Guys,” and it became a tradition that my kids looked forward to each week. They’d get high fives and fist bumps at the Niners facility from some of their newest pals (my teammates!). Each person in that building treated my boys like family, and to this day, my kids still talk about those “remember whens.” I owe those guys a lot for the lifelong memories they created for my family.
At the end of the day, every organization I’ve played for has had a positive impact on my career, each one leaving its unique and significant mark on my journey. And I could not be more thankful that’s how it played out for me.
People often ask me if I have a favorite or most memorable kick, and it really is such a hard question to answer. So many of them have such significance to me from different points in my career. But if I have to pick, here it goes:
January of 2022. Playoffs. Green Bay vs. San Fran. Lambeau Field. It’s 10–10. Ball on the right hash. Four seconds left on the clock. Jimmy G. had just taken the Niners offense 44 yards in nine plays against the top-seeded Packers. Deebo and Juszczyk had huge plays to give us a shot to win it from 45 and send San Francisco to the NFC Championship.
The temperature was below zero, and it felt exactly the way it did when I played in the Windy City. Snow was falling, and the ground was soft. It wasn’t ideal, but none of that mattered; as a kicker, it was one of those moments I lived for every time I stepped on the field. And then….
We nailed it right down the middle.
Just like that, the game was over.
We didn’t win it all or even make it to the Super Bowl that season, but, man, that one felt good. I’ve always had a healthy respect for the Packers and that fierce Bears-Packers rivalry. More than anything, though, I just absolutely love Bears fans. So to hit a huge kick like that, on the big stage, to continue my streak of never missing a kick in the playoffs and to also make all of Chicago happy in the process by taking down its rival? It was the best of both worlds.
But listen, to be honest with you, big moments like that — the pressure on me and everyone watching — that was my happy place. Call me crazy, but I lived for that. I wanted the game to come down to me. I truly believe that if you love something enough, if you have a passion for it, if you deep down know as a competitor that you hate to lose, you’ll do anything you can to prepare yourself to be ready in moments like that.
So, without interruption, I’m ready for this next stage of life.- Robbie Gould
Now, although football has been a really great part of my life for the past 18 years, it is with the utmost regard and appreciation that I officially announce my retirement from the National Football League.
Will I miss it? Absolutely. The fire to play and to compete definitely still burns, and I’m not sure that will ever go away. As I look back over the entirety of my career, it’s kind of ironic because the thing I’m going to miss the most isn’t really even all that much about the actual game of football. I’ll miss being a part of a football team. The plane rides, the pregame meals, the companionship, the locker room culture, the workouts, and the grind of one unit trying to accomplish a common goal of winning — that part can’t be replaced.
Whether you were an owner, a general manager, a coach, a teammate, a member of the support staff, a massage therapist, a fan, or my own amazing family — each and every one of you has impacted me in some way throughout my career. From the bottom of my heart, I am forever grateful and appreciative for every bit of support you have given me. You were my motivation to go the extra mile. And we can all agree that the week is always a little better after any kind of win in life, right?
And now? Lucky me. My favorite team has been waiting for me at home to join them full-time — no contract needed. I’m excited to be more present with my family and to focus all of my attention on what matters to me outside of football. For the longest time, my career has naturally filled my schedule, and my wife has taken the reins at home. My oldest is 10 years old, and I’ve been away from him for large chunks of nine years. My younger two boys are eight and five. For most of their lives, Dad hasn’t been fully present. So, without interruption, I’m ready for this next stage of life.
As the football chapter, this “good thing,” comes to an end, it also opens a door for new endeavors that come my way. Charity work is an integral part of my core values, and I’m looking forward to pursuing more opportunities to give back. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t also thinking about all of the golf courses I’ve yet to visit. And in my book, a Little League position titled “Coach Rob” has a pretty nice ring to it.
All the best,