SAN JOSÉ, United States: Scotland-born Graham Gano says he would relish the pressure of having to kick a Super Bowl-winning field goal after a season where rule changes made his unerring accuracy with the boot more valuable than ever.
The Carolina Panthers star is aiming to become the second Scottish kicker to win the Super Bowl in the past decade following the double success of the New York Giants’ Lawrence Tynes in 2007 and 2011.
The 28-year-old was born in Arbroath while his US serviceman father was stationed on a military base there.
Gano spent six years in Scotland before returning as a child to the United States, where he has lived ever since.
Although his home is the United States, he continues to identify himself as a Scot and hopes to carry a Scottish flag into the Levi’s Stadium on Sunday when the Panthers face the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50.
“I’m proud of both my Scottish and American roots and most of my team-mates know where I’m from, but not what the Scottish flag looks like, so I’ll get a few questions,” he told Scotland’s Daily Record recently.
“Millions of people will see the Scottish flag. It’d be great to represent Scotland like that and make the country proud.”
Gano has had another standout campaign for the Panthers this year, nailing high-pressure long-range kicks in last-gasp wins over the Indianapolis Colts and the New York Giants during the regular season.
Now he is contemplating the possibility of Sunday’s game coming down to a field goal and a shot at glory from his metronomic boot.
“I’ve been thinking about that since I first started playing,” Gano told reporters on Wednesday in his unmistakably American accent.
“I am hoping for it, so hopefully it does come down to that. I hope that every game and that is what makes my job the most fun.”
Gano arrived at the Panthers in 2012 via a circuitous route which included stints with the Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins as well as a spell with the Las Vegas Locomotives in the now-defunct United Football League.
After six years in the business, Gano says he is used to being teased about the fleeting — but often vital — role of a kicker.
“Everyone has their own opinions about kickers, I guess. They say they aren’t really football players, but it is funny — when the game is on the line, who do they look to when you are down by a couple points? It’s the kicker.”
This season, the NFL’s brotherhood of kickers faced additional pressure after a rule change that lengthened the distance of extra-point kicks.
“At the beginning I wasn’t in favor of it, I don’t think anyone is in favor of making their job more difficult.
“But I think it was something that needed to happen — and it’s going to make guys who can make them consistently more valuable, so yeah, I am definitely in favor of it.”