Ring of Honor Feature: Martin Gramatica

By Chris Newton
Sports Information Student Assistant

Simply put, an ordinary man with extraordinary talent. 

A native of Argentina, Martin Gramatica spent his early years doing what every other kid in his home country was doing: sprinting sideline-to-sideline, kicking around the round-shaped ball, but most importantly, exercising their love for the game of soccer.  For most kids in Argentina, soccer wasn’t just a sport; it was a way of life.            

And as for Martin, there was no exception.        

 

“I love soccer,” said Gramatica. “If you were to ask me when I was a kid, I would have never guessed I would be playing in the NFL.”

 

Believe it or not, Martin never even played an organized game of football until his senior year in high school. Being the only true soccer players at LaBelle High School in Florida, he and his brother Bill, also well known for his NFL place-kicking career, were approached and asked to strap on the helmet and kick for the football team and without hesitation, they did.

 

Martin finished his senior season in high school with astonishing statistics for any high school kicker by nailing 8-of-10 field goals with a long of 52 yards to go with 22 extra points.  He also sent 38 of his 49 kickoffs for a touchback.

 

In 1994, still a youngster coming out of high school, Gramatica made his way to Kansas State where coach Bill Snyder was just beginning to brew up arguably the greatest Kansas State Wildcat football teams of all time.

 

“Coach Snyder helped me out a ton,” said Gramatica. “It is always tough leaving home where you are comfortable and going to a new place, but coach made it a real easy transition for me. I could not thank him enough.”

 

As a freshman, Gramatica was ranked eighth in the Big Eight with 57 total points, hitting 6-of-9 field  and shooting 38-of-39 PATs through the uprights. Due to a very successful K-State redzone offense his sophomore year, Gramatica saw few opportunities to show his abilities, however, still connected on 7-of-10 field goals before medically redshirting the 1996 season due to a knee injury he suffered a week before the opening kickoff.  But it was the following year, his junior season, when he really took off and set himself far above the rest. It was this year where he earned his nickname “Automatica” Gramatica.

Gramatica led the nation in field goal accuracy by hitting 19-of-20 (.950) field goals, earning himself a place in the K-State single-season record books with 19 completed field goals, and did so by knocking in 13 of them consecutively. A first team All-Big 12 and All-America selection by The Associated Press, he became the first major award winner in school history by winning 1997 Lou Groza Award, an award presented annually to the nation’s top kicker. All in the same year, he continued to rewrite the record books by booting in 14 points (3 FGs and 5 PAT) against Bowling Green - a new single game points record - and by launching a 55-yard field goal against Ohio to tie the Big 12 record and rank third in school history for the longest field goal.

But amongst his incredible junior season, Gramatica will be the first one to confirm that it was his senior season, the 1998 Kansas State Wildcat Football team, that he cherishes the most.

 

“My senior season is without a doubt one of my favorite memories,” said Gramatica.  “I just enjoyed the whole thing, every aspect. It was unbelievable to go undefeated and finishing first in the conference.  With my personal achievements aside, we had an amazing team. A team I will never forget.”

 

However, any honest K-State fan will tell you that Gramatica’s individual performance throughout his senior season was definitely another one in need of highlighting.  Selected as All-American by numerous organizations, he capped off his collegiate career by setting an NCAA record for scoring by a kicker in a season with 135 points. He was at the top of the charts as one to be recognized, yet again, finishing as the runner-up for the Lou Groza Award and was a finalist for the Mosi Tatupu Special Teams Award.

 

Perhaps though, his most memorable and notable achievement could be the unforgettable,

 

insurmountable, 65-yard field goal against Northern Illinois, which was recorded as the fourth longest field goal in NCAA history and the longest in NCAA history without the use of a tee. This 65-yarder set a Kansas State and Big 12 record and earned him Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week honors.

 

“I remember Coach called a timeout,” said Gramatica.  “Not many coaches would do that and send his kicker out to attempt a 65-yarder. He ran over to me and told me we going to kick. The team was going crazy. It was a great feeling to be the one who could fire them up. It all just happened so fast.”

 

It was also in this 1998 season that Gramatica set the school record for kicking points (18 vs. Kansas) and field goal completions (four vs. Kansas and Texas A&M) in a game, as well as becoming the new K-State career scoring leader with 349 points.

 

Martin graduated from Kansas State in May 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in social science.

 

He was selected in the third round (84th overall) of the 1999 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where he continued to shine as one of the nation’s greatest kickers. He was named to the All-Rookie Team by Pro Football Weekly, College and Pro Football Newsweekly and Football Digest during his 1999 rookie season, and was selected as the starting kicker for the NFC Pro Bowl in just his second season.

 

In 2002, his fourth season in the NFL, Gramatica suited up for all 16 games and three playoff games for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, including a victory in Super Bowl XXXVII.

 

He is currently the kicker for the New Orleans Saints and plans to continue playing as long as his health allows and then hopes to settle down and relax where he can enjoy his wife and two kids.

 

“I cannot thank the K-State fans enough for their support over the years,” said Gramatica. “They have been great to me. I always look forward to going back and visiting and seeing all the old things and new changes in Manhattan.”

The remaining two Ring of Honor inductees will be featured here online during the week of the North Texas game.