August 12, 2013
By Mark Janssen
It was 15 years ago on this date ... Sept. 12, 1998 ... that Martin Gramatica toed his way into the Kansas State and NCAA record book.
With the KSU Stadium scoreboard clock at the north end of the field racing to zeroes at the end of the first half, and with Kansas State leading Northern Illinois, 56-7, coach Bill Snyder abruptly called a timeout.
"James (Garcia) came running toward me saying, 'We're going to try it!' " said Gramatica, who already had field goal makes of 46 and 37 yards in the first half. "Honestly, with the score the way it was, I wasn't paying too much attention. I'm not even sure my shoes were tied."
With Brandon Knowles serving as long-snapper, Garcia as the holder, and Gramatica as the kicker, the K-State trio produced the longest field goal without using a tee in college football history ... 65 yards!
"I didn't even know how far it was when I went out there, but I knew it was far and I would have to hit it solid to get it there," said Gramatica, who by the end of the day scored 16 points - three field goals and seven extra points - for a single-game record in the eventual 73-7 victory.
The kick was long; the kick was on-line; the kick cleared the crossbar with ease.
Looking back, Gramatica said, "I wasn't sure how far it cleared it. All I was trying for was 65 yards and one inch."
That three-point kick helped propel Gramatica to runner-up status for the Lou Groza Award, one year after winning the most prestigious of kicking honors in 1997.
In Gramatica's mind, he adds, "I still thank Coach Snyder for calling that time out to give me a chance. That kick made me the highest drafted kicker in the NFL Draft (3rd round). I owe my pro career to him, my holder and my long-snapper."
In 1997, Gramatica connected on an astounding 19-of-20 field goals; in 1998 "Automatica" was 22-of-31. For his K-State career, his 22 field goals are tied with Brooks Rossman for a single season, and for a career, his 54 makes are a K-State record by a whopping 17 field goals.
Combine all of those numbers and it equals to State of Kansas Hall of Fame status with Gramatica's induction coming on Oct. 6 in Wichita. Also in the Class of 2013 will be former Wildcat women's basketball mega-star Nicole Ohlde.
Laughing at the honor, Gramatica said, "That's very humbling. As a kicker you never expect to be in any Hall of Fame. When I got the call I was more shocked than excited. To be in a Hall of Fame with Bill Snyder and Barry Sanders ... you just think, 'No way!' "
Gramatica added, "I still carry so much of Coach Snyder with me today. He treated everyone with such respect and he expected the best out of everybody. He was there to make people better. As a dad today, you try to raise your kids to make them be the best they can be like Coach Snyder did with each of his players."
With wife Ashlee, the Gramaticas today live in Tampa, Fla., with their children Nico (7), Gaston (5) and Emme (20 months).
"Gaston has already told me he's committed to K-State, so I hope Coach Snyder will still be there (2026)," laughed Gramatica. "Nico has been brainwashed with all the Florida Gator stuff down here. (Laughing) I guess they all can't be perfect."
It's a good bet that Snyder, or whomever the coach might be, will take Gaston just because of the Gramatica name. Martin's brothers Bill and Santiago both kicked for the University of South Florida, with Bill later joining his older brother in the NFL.
Playing for Tampa Bay, Indianapolis, Dallas and New Orleans from 1999 to 2008, Gramatica kicked 155 field goals. He was a member of the Pro Bowl team in 2000 and the kicker for the XXXVII Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers in 2002.
It's all quite a story for someone who favored kicking a round soccer ball as a kid, but only changed to the oblong ball when in high school.
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Gramatica came to the United States with his family at the age of nine. In time, he finally switched to kicking footballs as a senior at La Salle High School, where he hit a 52-yarder and was 8-of-10 on field goals.
Still, it wasn't until the summer months of 1994 that assistant coach Jim Leavitt finally located Gramatica and signed him on to replace Tate Wright as K-State's kicker.
"I came from a small town (La Salle) in Florida that Coach Leavitt would drive through on recruiting trips, but never had a reason to stop there," said Gramatica. "I was working out in Naples where someone told him (Leavitt) about me. They flew me to Manhattan, I showed them my tape, and it worked out to a scholarship."
While Gramatica had no offers from any school in Florida, he did have an offer from Notre Dame.
Laughing at the memory, "I really wasn't into football at all, so I didn't know much about Notre Dame's tradition. I didn't know what Notre Dame meant."
Laughing again, Gramatica said, "People thought I was crazy for passing on Notre Dame, but we've had a better record than Notre Dame since then."
(Editor's Note: Sports Extra will profile Martin Gramatica at a later date featuring his foundation and his company - Gramatica Structural Insulated Panel Systems. Based in Tampa, Fla., and with his brothers Bill and Santiago, they are building homes for wounded United States veterans who are returning home.)