Super Bowl LIV: ‘Always a Bear,’ 49ers kicker Robbie Gould ready for confetti
While kicking for the Bears from 2005 until general manager Ryan Pace axed him on the eve of the 2016 season, Gould set the all-time franchise scoring record. Fans still pine for Gould. The love is mutual.
MIAMI — Robbie Gould didn’t bother peeling the wet confetti off his cleats 13 years ago. He vowed never to wear them again, packing them up after the Bears’ 29-17 loss to the Colts at a soggy Super Bowl. He later would display them in a shadow box in the basement of his north suburban home, with the blue, white, orange and teal paper scraps included.
That has been the easiest way for the 49ers’ kicker to explain this Super Bowl trip to his three sons, who are 6 years old or younger.
‘‘Go look at daddy’s shoes,’’ he said.
Gould will step into the same stadium — it has been remodeled and has a different corporate sponsor — with the 49ers on Super Bowl Sunday. He wants to leave the field carpeted with confetti to celebrate a victory against the Chiefs. He has promised his kids they can throw all of it they want.
It still seems weird, though, that the little scraps of paper would be scarlet and gold and not navy and orange.
‘‘It’s a very special year for me,’’ he said. ‘‘I love the city of Chicago; I always will. That love I have for the city and the Bears organization is never going to go away. I said it when I got cut: Once a Bear, always a Bear. I truly mean that.’’
Kicking for the Bears from 2005 until general manager Ryan Pace axed him on the eve of the 2016 season, Gould set the all-time franchise scoring record. Four full seasons later, the Bears have had five players try a regular-season kick — and eight try out in a preseason derby.
Justifiably, fans still pine for Gould. The love is mutual.
‘‘My kids will learn ‘Bear Down’ and all of that when the time’s right,’’ he said.
The time felt right a year ago. The Bears were reeling from Cody Parkey’s double-doink playoff miss, and Gould was set to become a free agent. But the 49ers put the franchise tag on him, sparking a staring contest that lasted more than four months. Gould didn’t attend a single organized team activity or mandatory minicamp practice.
In April, Gould asked for a trade and said he wanted to be closer to home. The 49ers said no.
He agreed to a four-year, $19 million contract in July, just before the deadline for tagged players to agree to extensions.
‘‘I told them this from the very beginning: ‘If a deal is right and makes sense for both sides, I’d be more than happy to come back and be a San Francisco 49er,’ ’’ Gould said.
His return was fraught at first. In his first six games, Gould missed seven kicks — more than he had totaled in a full season — on 19 tries. He said he had a good training camp but struggled to find rhythm with the others on the field-goal team. Snapper Kyle Nelson missed the first six games to serve a league suspension for performance-enhancing drugs, and the 49ers cycled through three replacements.
Gould made 11 of his next 12 kicks — though none longer than 47 yards — to close the regular season and has converted all five of his field goals and seven extra points in the playoffs. After missing all four 50-plus-yard kicks during the regular season, he made a 54-yarder in the NFC Championship Game.
‘‘I felt like every couple of weeks I was trying to find that rhythm,’’ he said. ‘‘Right now, for me, having the same regimen of guys together . . . it makes sense. It feels right.’’
Other kickers around the league appreciate what Gould has done.
‘‘He’s had a great career, made a ton of big kicks in Chicago,’’ Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker said. ‘‘His form is super-smooth. I love to watch him as a kicker.’’
Gould, who turned 37 in December, missed three games this season with a quad injury. But he said he has learned to train smarter as he has aged, to pace himself during the week to feel fresh on Sunday.
‘‘He had a great career in Chicago, and obviously that changed for him,’’ said Dave Toub, who coached Gould as the Bears’ special-teams coordinator from 2004 to 2012 and then moved into the same role for the Chiefs. ‘‘He went to the Giants and did OK. Then he gets a chance with the 49ers and does and outstanding job.
‘‘He’s a true professional, a student of the game, very consistent in his technique. It doesn’t surprise me one bit that he’s where he’s at right now. . . . It’s unbelievable that we’re together here 13 years later and the next Super Bowl that we’re in is this one.”
The 13 years in between have given Gould a deeper appreciation for how hard it is to get to the pinnacle of the sport.
‘‘Last time I was here, I had a lot more hair,’’ he said.
He has spent the week taking pictures and videos, chronicling memories to share with his family. Technology didn’t allow for that when the Bears were here.
Having played in the Super Bowl in the same stadium, Gould knows what to expect. That comforts him, though he claims he never really gets nervous anyway.
‘‘I have nothing to lose at this point of my career, I really don’t,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m playing to enjoy the game; I’m playing to enjoy the moment. Every week and every road trip and every time I’m in the locker room.
‘‘As a young guy, I didn’t really take it all in. At this point in my career, I’m trying to take the experiences I have in and try to share them as much with my kids.’’
On Sunday, he wants to share the confetti. He knows it might be his last chance to do so.
‘‘I think the big part about it is, just enjoy the ride,’’ he said. ‘‘Truthfully, I probably have a few more years left before I’m going to be a husband and a father. . . .
‘‘I think the biggest part about it is just enjoying the moment, the ride of being back in the Super Bowl. You never know when it’s going to be or how it’s going to end or what it’s going to look like.’’