The Chargers and the other teams at the NFL combine scouting the available kickers don’t need someone to square up and hit an 80-yard kick. They don’t need someone who makes the football sound like it’s going to explode when he strikes it with his foot. They don’t need someone who fights crime.
They just need someone who can consistently put the ball through the uprights.
But if they wanted all those other things, Florida’s Eddy Pineiro is the guy.
A big-legged kicking prodigy a blink into his football career, Pineiro made 17 straight field goals for the Gators in his second year in the sport. He routinely pounds them from more than 50 yards. Throw his name into the internet and watch a video of him making an 81-yard field goal in practice in full pads.
And he saved a woman’s life in an act of bravery.
In October, Pineiro was woken by early-morning screams, and he looked outside his apartment window to find a woman thrown to the ground, being choked and punched by her boyfriend.
He and his father, who was staying with him, ran down three flights of stairs to stop the attack. He chased down the abuser and pulled him off of the victim, allowing her to escape to safety.
He also later encouraged the victim to press charges and testified in his trial, which resulted in the attacker receiving jail time.
“I was always raised to never put your hand on a woman and if you see someone getting hurt, help someone out,” he said at the combine. “…My first instinct was to help somebody out. I’m studying to be a police officer so maybe that played some part in this.”
He and his father received a Police Service Award from the Gainesville Police Department.
“Hopefully after I have a long career, I’d like to be a police officer, be in the DEA and get drugs off the street,” Pineiro said. “That’s the goal.”
It’s a goal, in part, that’s recently changed.
For most of his life, Pineiro was a strong-legged soccer player scoring goals from close to midfield. He was set to accept a soccer scholarship but his test scores didn’t come through, forcing him to a junior college.
While he was there, his father, a former soccer pro, bought a football and encouraged his son to give placekicking a try. Pineiro went on YouTube to learn how to kick a football and promptly went on the field and made a 60-yarder.
“It just came natural to me,” he said.
He attended Alabama’s kicking camp, giving himself one shot at this football thing at the highest level. He earned scholarship offers from some of the top programs in the country, including the Crimson Tide.
“That’s when Nick Saban said I have the biggest leg he’s ever seen,” Pineiro said. “It’s just the sound of the ball comes out different. It’s like an explosion. That was his interpretation.”
Since then, he’s stretched his length deeper and deeper and believes he can connect from 80 yards in a game.
“I think I can hit an 80-yard field goal in a game. Honestly. I really do,” he said. “All the people that say that velocity isn’t high enough, that’s not true. My 80-yard field goal is the same as my 20-yard field goal. There’s no such thing as hitting it softer.”
His story has the Chargers interested. The team met with Pineiro at the combine and told him they’re looking to draft a kicker, which lines up with coach Anthony Lynn’s repeated statements that he wants to find a young kicker to grow with the team.
“Hopefully, I’m that guy,” Pineiro said. “That would be nice.”
As he answered questions at a table Friday, Pineiro’s legs bounced up and down like pistons quickly firing in an engine.
It’s not intentional — just like he wasn’t intentionally heroic, just like he didn’t set out to kick the stitches off a football.
“I always do that. My right leg, left leg,” Pineiro said. ”That’s why I think my leg’s so strong. I’m always moving.”
Paying a price
The Rams are in the market for a center to replace or be groomed under pending free agent John Sullivan, and Ohio State’s Billy Price is regarded by some prognosticators as a potential target in the first round.
Price started 55 consecutive games at Ohio State, playing guard for three seasons before moving to center in 2017.
Price, however, suffered a chest injury Thursday during bench-press testing.
“I’ve been lifting since I was in the fifth grade,” Price said. “I’m familiar with my body and I try to be very aware of what’s going on. I didn’t feel something right.”
Price had an MRI exam and said the injury was minor, though it could force him to sit out spring workouts.
But his resume and his versatility as a center and guard make him an attractive prospect.
“I see myself as a center in this league,” he said. “Being able to be accountable for the offense and orchestrating the line, making sure we’re efficient, everybody is on the same page.
“It’s something that I find myself that I could be very successful at this, but I can play both. It is a situation that I’m open to playing both sides of the ball — whether left guard, right guard, center. Whatever the team needs, I’ll be able to succeed any place.”
Rasheem Green credits USC defensive line coach Kenechi Udeze for preparing him for the jump to the NFL.
Green, USC's sack leader the past two seasons, decided to forgo his final season of college eligibility and declare for the draft. He had 10 sacks last season.
Udeze, an All-American defensive end at USC, was a No. 1 draft pick by the Minnesota Vikings in 2004.
“Having him as a coach was the best thing for me,” Green said, “because he has really helped me see the game differently, and he has also helped me see… life differently.”
Green said Udeze influenced his increased appreciation for film study and practice habits.
“He has told me the stuff he’s seen, the stuff I would have to know, just like little tips that will help me out,” Green said.
Perseverance paid off
Steven Mitchell Jr. came back from two major knee injuries during his USC career, so waiting for an invitation to the combine was frustrating but manageable.
Mitchell received his email invitation on the last day they were distributed.
“Woke up, looked at my phone — you know, everybody does the early-morning phone check,” he said. “I got the email, man, I was reading it. I threw my phone!
“And then the first people I called were my parents. They were just so excited, so happy for me. So that was a good day.”
Mitchell caught 109 passes, 11 for touchdowns, in four seasons at USC. He was eager to show NFL scouts that he could play at the next level, and sought combine advice from former Trojans teammates such as JuJu Smith-Schuster and Nelson Agholor. He also participated in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.
“We got coached by a lot of vets, so we were constantly asking questions and got a lot of good feedback,” he said.
Mitchell ran the 40-yard dash in 4.57 seconds.
UCLA receiver Jordan Lasley was clocked in 4.5 seconds.