Robbie and Christopher Gould would start learning each morning before the first bell.
The field was their classroom. Their father Robbie Sr. their teacher. The boys tried to learn the fundamentals, try to absorb as much as they could, even on those frigid sunrises in November.
Robbie Sr. would teach his sons the form, not worry about the distance. He’d also push his boys to keep a good work ethic. Stay consistent in getting up to practice before being consistent in kicks.
“He’d pull us out of bed and we’d have to make sure we got at least our 30 field goals in every day,” Christopher said.
Robbie, a Central Mountain graduate along with Christopher, went on to kick at Penn State before going undrafted to the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in 2005.
Adam Vinatieri was the well-established kicker for New England’s growing dynasty, and following a three-week stint in Baltimore, Robbie was waived.
Eighteen years later, however, Robbie has established a resume that includes two Super Bowl appearances, three conference championship appearances, a first- and second-team All-Pro selection and a Pro Bowl nomination.
With losses in Super Bowls XLI with the Chicago Bears and LIV with the San Francisco 49ers, and San Francisco’s NFC Championship defeat to the Los Angeles Rams two weeks ago, Robbie hasn’t secured a ring.
But that young boy who logged countless hours on the field before school every day is hungry. Starving for gold on his finger to match his last name.
“The one thing that’s escaped Rob is winning the Super Bowl. I know he really wants it,” Christopher said. “He works hard to achieve that goal. He spends countless hours in the film room … I know that’s one of the things he wants before his career is done.”
He’s done his part, too.
Through the postseason, Robbie has been automatic, with 21 field goals kicked on 21 successful attempts. In the divisional round against the Packers, the vet banged a 45-yard game-winner in 9 mile per hour winds at frigid Lambeau Field to send the 49ers back to the NFC championship.
Green Bay’s harsh weather conditions aren’t anything Robbie isn’t used to. He was with Chicago from 2005-2015, enough time to become the Bears’ all-time leading scorer.
Robbie and Christopher would walk the streets and hit up restaurants. The brothers would stroll through shopping plazas and be met by Bears fans.
The men would be stopped, fans wanting to greet Robbie. He always takes the time to oblige.
“People with professional athletes, they always want to say hi,” Christopher said. “Robbie thinks it’s always important to say hi, ask people how they’re doing, because you never know how that’ll uplift their day.”
Christopher was playing for the Chicago Rush, an arena football team based in Rosemont, 21 miles northwest of Chicago. The two worked on their careers together, like they started doing long ago on those early mornings.
“To me, he’s got great humility and he always remembers his roots. I think that’s something that’s propelled him throughout his career,” Christopher said.
That’s why Robbie makes himself available. Why he greets fans, takes a moment to meet and connect. Living in small-town Pennsylvania, he didn’t have those professional athletes to meet himself.
“We didn’t have many opportunities doing that when we were growing up,” Christopher said.
Christopher serves as an assistant special teams coach for the Denver Broncos. Though from a big soccer family, the Goulds always had that dream of reaching the NFL.
“That was the goal. Fortunately for us, both kids were successful,” Robbie Sr. said. “They both made goals they were hoping to achieve and it worked out for them one way or another, whether it was coaching or playing.”
While Robbie is still chasing that elusive Super Bowl ring, Christopher got his in his first year in the NFL when a then-Peyton-Manning-led Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50.
It’s the only thing the younger Gould has to hold over his brother’s head.
“We banter back and forth. He tells me, ‘Oh, I’ve got millions of dollars,’ and I always say, ‘I’ve got a ring, something you don’t have yet,’” Christopher said.
But Robbie keeps working. The 39-year-old still has gas in the tank, the hunger to win and a work ethic to back up both.
And Christopher isn’t stopping any time soon on the coaching side, either. The two are living the very pursuit they dreamed of long ago.
“Both of us are ultra competitors. We really hate to lose at anything,” Christopher said. “From that standpoint, we tried to be the best we could. Better than everyone else, really. I think, being one of the 32 kickers in the NFL, is an achievement you’re looking forward to when you’re younger.”
The boys wanted to play soccer. It wasn’t until Christopher got involved with kicking for Central Mountain’s JV football team that Robbie decided to do the same for varsity.
Christopher was asked by the JV coach to join. Robbie was motivated to ask the athletic director about playing for the high school.
“Football was kind of an afterthought, something we kinda fell into,” Christopher said.
Robbie wasn’t expected to start. He wasn’t even expected to set foot on the field. But when Central Mountain’s kicker got hurt, Robbie found his opportunity.
Those early mornings added up. Robbie performed well enough to be Central Mountain’s go-to in the kicking unit.
“Since then, the story’s been written,” Robbie Sr. said.
Penn State was obviously a bigger atmosphere 40 minutes down the road at Beaver Stadium. The jump from Mill Hall to the Big Ten was immense. A larger atmosphere, certainly more fans and a national platform.
He handled it with a 63.9 field goal percentage for the Nittany Lions and scored 232 points over the course of his four years in the NCAA.
It was an adjustment. Like any student-athlete, Robbie had to find the right balance. The blossoming social life college offers, and the grind of keeping up with schoolwork and athletics.
“When you do the things you choose to do, there are sacrifices that have to be made,” Robbie Sr. said. “If you make the right sacrifices, and everything goes right, you’ll be fine.”
That’s what Robbie Sr. preached to his sons each morning before school, what he always instilled in them even beyond high school varsity.
The grind of getting to where you want to be, no matter where you are now. That’s what the brothers learned from Robbie Sr. It’s what many young athletes learned from him.
“It just goes to show you that it doesn’t matter where you’re from,” Robbie Sr. said on his sons’ NFL careers. “I’ve always told this to all my athletes I’ve coached. The harder you work, the more successful you’ll be. You just can’t take it for granted.”
Robbie never has.
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