MADISON -- It has only been a few years since Rafael Gaglianone made his way from Brazil to Tennessee as a foreign exchange student. He had dreams of coming to the United States to play the game he loved -- soccer, otherwise known as "futebol" in Portuguese. Instead, what Rafael found was a new kind of football.
Gaglianone , a 5'11, 231-pound kicker from Sao Paulo, found an opportunity he never could've imagined when he came to the United States. He attended Baylor School in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where the football coach asked him to come and try kicking at practice. His coach, Phil Massey, found a gem in Gaglianone.
The kicker said he realized he had a future in football in his junior year. His junior year was when the letters from various universities around the country started to flood in. He capped his high school career with a stellar senior season, going 10-of-14 with a career-long 57-yard field goal, kicked 42 of 44 kickoffs through the end zone and finishing as a Mr. Tennessee award finalist.
Gaglianone said that he will have to adjust to the big crowds, compared to the 5,000-to-8,000 fans he kicked in front of in high school. When Gaglianone lined up for his first field goal in Division I football vs. LSU on Aug. 30, he hardly seemed phased.
"I just felt very confident. Having a good holder and having a good snapper with the best protection, you know, that just makes it easy and leaves the job all up to me.
"Whenever I am in that situation, I can perform right away."
Gaglianone also said he was very appreciative of the opportunity and trust head coach Gary Andersen put in him to go out and kick the 51-yard field goal that he split the up rights with. Those types of kicks are the ones that Badgers fans have longed for since the days of John Hall, Phillip Welch and Taylor Melhoff have come and gone.
"I am just fortunate for the opportunity." Gaglianone said. "Just hit the ball well. Perfect hold, perfect protection, perfect snap, so that just made it easy for me again."
Special teams coach Jeff Genyk has been impressed by Gaglianone's ball flight, trajectory and technique.
"He is a very confident young man. Really believes in his technique," Genyk said. "I have been coaching kickers for 20 years. I have only had one other true freshman come in and execute for a whole season. Granted, that was four kicks."
After Gaglianone booted his kick through the pipes, he became an Internet sensation with what could be called a Salsa dance. Many videos and Vines were instantly uploaded of the freshman sensation shaking his hips in celebration, and upon seeing himself all over the Internet, the kicker said he was somewhat embarrassed.
"At first I was a little embarrassed, but now I am embracing it. I might have to keep doing it from now on," Gaglianone said. "It's one of those things in the moment, you know? One of my teammates came out and did it and I did it with him. It kind of went viral."
As for seeing it after every kick, the Brazilian said fans shouldn't count on it. He thinks a celebration like that can only be used after big kicks, not PATs and short field goals.
"It was just something in the moment. I am not even sure if I could do it right now."
So what's next for Rafael and his field goal antics? With a big smile on his face he may have let the cat out of the bag.
"I heard a couple of my teammates wanted to jump in and do the dance with me, so we will see how that goes. I guess next Saturday we will find out."