The Infamous Celebration That Brought NFL Kicker Bill Gramatica’s Season To A Bizarre End

Bill Gramatica after a kick

Getty Image

If you’re a football fan, you know the last name “Gramatica.” Argentinian brothers Martin and Bill Gramatica were two mainstays at the kicker position in the NFL for around a decade, and while they were solid players, the latter is probably best remembered for the injury he suffered while celebrating a field goal.

Most people would kill for the chance to be a kicker in the NFL, but players at that position have a fairly unique existence compared to the rest of their football-playing peers.

Being able to split the uprights on a consistent basis is much easier said than done, but the players tasked with doing so have a pretty thankless job; they’re expected to deliver every time they trot out onto the field, and while they might get some glory by kicking a field goal as the clock expires, they’re also Public Enemy No. 1 when they fail to convert in clutch situations.

One of the tougher parts of the job is the notion that kickers aren’t Real Football Players (which once inspired Adam Sandler to pen a musical ode detailing the pains of belonging to that ostracized group), and there’s also a perception kickers aren’t as tough as their counterparts—which Bill Gramatica only affirmed thanks to what unfolded toward the start of his career.

Bill Gramatica managed to tear his ACL while celebrating a kick

Bill Gramatica Hurt after celebrating

Getty Image

On December 15th, 2001, Gramatica and the Arizona Cardinals headed to The Meadowlands to face off against the Giants in a Week 14 showdown.

It was an essentially meaningless game; Arizona came into the contest with a 5-7 record while New York was sitting at 6-7, and both teams really needed a miracle if they were hoping to punch their ticket to the playoffs (which neither of them were able to do when everything was said and done).

Neither team had scored by the time Gramatica headed out to kick a 42-yard field goal in the middle of the first quarter, and the Cardinals took a 3-0 lead when he converted what was a pretty routine attempt (although he was dealing with some pretty fierce winds blowing in the opposite direction).

Gramatica was pretty amped about the make, and the rookie opted to celebrate with a flying fist pump only to immediately collapse and grab his right leg after he landed on the turf after leaping.

Gramatica was able to stay in the game to kick another field goal and convert an extra point, although Pat Tillman was forced to handle kickoffs due to the ailment that was soon diagnosed as a torn ACL that ended his inaugural campaign.

While his season was cut a few games short, he still set the Cardinals rookie record for most points scored in a season and was able to return to form the following year. Unfortunately, he landed back on the injured reserve in 2003 after hurting his back, and his time in the NFL came to an end after a brief stint with the Dolphins in 2004.

It’s worth noting Gramatica was able to have a sense of humor about the whole thing. He reflected on that incident in an interview with The Arizona Republic in 2010, saying:

“You guys got it wrong. You said I got hurt jumping. My jump was excellent. It was my landing I needed to work on. It was funny.”

Unfortunately for Gramatica, this injury will go down in infamy and arguably define his entire career—although he can take a little bit of solace in knowing he’s not alone.

In 2020, Bears DE Lamarr Houston arguably outdid Gramatica when he tore his ACL while celebrating a late-game sack with Chicago trailing by 25 points, and Edwin Diaz suffered the same fate while rejoicing with his teammates at the Wolrd Baseball Classic in 2023.

I’d be remiss if I also didn’t mention the time Tony Finau managed to dislocate his ankle after recording a hole-in-one during the Par 3 Contest ahead of The Masters in 2018 (he somehow finished in a tie for 10th at Augusta National that year despite the gnarly nature of the injury he was nursing during the tournament).

I mean, look, I get it. These guys are excited and celebrating their success, but you gotta be careful—especially when the stakes are about as low as they get.

The common factor between everything I’ve mentioned above is that none of those achievements really mattered in the grand scheme of things, so maybe think twice about going vertical unless there’s a trophy or a giant check you’re going to receive as a consolation prize if things end up going south.