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ALAMEDA — Everyone wants the underdog to win. I’m no exception. But what do you do when two underdogs are competing for a job? What if it isn’t David vs. Goliath, but rather David vs. David? Sling vs. sling?

That’s the state of the Oakland Raiders’ kicking competition, with rookie Eddy Piñeiro trying to take the roster spot currently held by Giorgio Tavecchio. Both spoke to the media Wednesday after the second day of the Raiders’ three-day minicamp, as did presumptive holder (and punter) Johnny Townsend and new special teams coach Rich Bisaccia.

Honestly, how are you supposed to root against one of these kickers?

Tavecchio has already become a cult favorite in Oakland. He spent several years as a Raiders “camp leg,” attractive primarily because he kicks left-footed, which meant the team could give Sebastian Janikowski a breather without screwing up the mechanics between long snapper, holder and placekicker. Tavecchio got to try some field goals in preseason games, and made most of them. But Janikowski was firmly entrenched as here.

Then Seabass hurt his back at the start of his 18th NFL season, and Tavecchio wound up replacing him in 2017. He performed adequately, making 16 of 21 field-goal attempts.

Off the field, Tavecchio is a superstar. He grew up in Moraga, but has also lived in Italy, and has an Italian flair for food, clothing and espresso. As former 49ers kicker David Akers once said of Tavecchio to calbears.com: “Don’t give Giorgio a cappuccino in a paper cup.”

And don’t dismiss his resilience. After wrapping up training camp stints with the 49ers, Packers, Lions and Raiders, Tavecchio needed real jobs. So he worked at a restaurant and a furniture store and a brokerage firm and a tech company. In 2016 he helped with kickers at Cal, his alma mater.

When he finally got his shot with the Raiders, teammates were overjoyed. And after he made all four of his field-goal attempts in his first real NFL game, at Tennessee in Week 1, coach Jack Del Rio gave Tavecchio a game ball. The player marked the occasion by quoting Aristotle to reporters after the game, possibly a first in Nashville.

Last year in training camp, Tavecchio volunteered to help with defensive line drills. He held a blocking dummy and was ceremonially crushed like a panino by a series of 300-pounders. Tavecchio is 5-foot-10, 182 pounds.

When media folk linger in NFL locker rooms, we frequently approach players to make small talk in quiet moments. It makes the job more fun, but it serves a real purpose. You might need information or a quote from that player one day; it will go more smoothly if they recognize your face.

I was in the Raiders’ locker room here one day last year, probably halfway into the regular season. I had never really talked much to Tavecchio. I didn’t need to introduce myself. He did the honors, shaking my hand and taking care to ask my name and where I worked. What a guy.

But Tavecchio isn’t exactly competing against Kim Jong-un. Because Eddy Piñeiro is pretty easy to get behind, too.

Piñeiro is listed as 6-0, 185, but he seems smaller when standing on an NFL field. Facially, he looks to be about 14 years old. His modest size is surprising when you see the videos of the Miami native kicking 72- and 77-yard field goals in practice. He’s got Janikowski’s leg on Stephen Curry’s body.

Piñeiro is an intriguing athlete. A soccer star in high school, he handled kickoffs and extra points (not field goals) for one prep season, and had planned to play soccer in college. It was his father who convinced him to attend an open tryout for Alabama football.

“I said, ‘Hey, if I go here and they offer me, then I’m going to keep playing football. If not, I’m done playing football. I’m going to keep playing soccer,’” Piñeiro recounted Wednesday. “I went up there and I did really good. They offered me and it pretty much took off from there.”

But not at Alabama. Piñeiro wound up kicking for Florida. So there’s another reason to like the kid: He said no to Nick Saban.

Piñeiro didn’t get drafted in April, but he was one of the first calls the Raiders made to free agents. He missed the team’s rookie camp, though. He was busy graduating with a degree in criminal justice (with a minor in African-American studies). He says he’d like to be a police officer one day and help to get drugs off the streets.

“I’m the first one in my family to graduate,” Piñeiro said. “That was bigger than getting drafted for me, if I had to say.”

You see what I’m saying here? One of these guys is going to get the ax in late August, and I’m not thrilled about it.

Bisaccia said the race is too close to handicap right now.

“Giorgio today had 11 kicks before he got over to the team six kicks, and he made all 11, and (then) I think he made all six,” the coach noted. “We came back at the end and he missed those last two. But yesterday they were two big ones just like Eddy kicked (Wednesday), and I think Eddy made one of the two. So right now they’re nip and tuck.”

There’s an interesting angle to this best-leg contest. Piñeiro’s holder at Florida was Townsend, whom the Raiders drafted in the fifth round to replace Marquette King. It could be — it really should be — an awkward situation. All concerned parties insist it is not. In fact, Piñeiro acknowledged that Tavecchio has helped him with film work and mental preparation.

“For me, this is obviously a pretty intimate journey, so I don’t keep people out, I don’t try to beat people down,” Tavecchio said. “I’m here to serve.”

But so is Piñeiro. These guys might put Raiders coach Jon Gruden and general manager Reggie McKenzie in a difficult spot when it’s time for final roster cuts. Clearly, they won’t be able to let go of either Tavecchio or Piñeiro. And it will be really hard to say goodbye to that extra tight end or cornerback.

You can reach columnist Phil Barber at 707-521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Skinny_Post.

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