Please welcome Josh Hudgens as the newest contributing member of the Stampede Blue writing staff.
Adam Vinatieri is one of the most respected, and beloved kickers of all time. He’s made dramatic kicks through snow storms, and knocked down countless game winners. If the 44-year-old kicker plays through the 2018 season, he will likely be the NFL’s all-time leading scorer. It’s obvious that his competitive spirit and drive to be great is unmatched.
I believe no story paints this picture better than an NSFW version of the story told by Pat McAfee and Adam Vinatieri in Pat’s podcast.
The story takes place in the off-season before the 2009 season. Vinatieri had surgery on his right hip before the season began and started year a little shaky, making 7-of-9 field goals, and experienced pain in his knee. Following an MRI, it was determined that it would be best to perform knee surgery. The doctors believed Vinatieri would be able to recover before the playoffs so he was not placed on injured reserve.
While on the mend, the Colts found a suitable replacement in Matt Stover who had previously played for the Baltimore Ravens, and is the NFL’s sixth all-time leading scorer. The Colts didn’t miss a beat with the change in kickers, as Stover converted 9-of-11 field goals, and didn’t miss an extra point. The Colts were 14-0 heading into week 15 of the regular season, primed for a post-season run. Reports were coming out from the media that Adam Vinatieri had resumed kicking, but only with the medical staff and not in front of the team.
One morning in a meeting the special team’s coordinator made a proclamation: “Today both kickers Adam Vinatieri and Matt Stover will be kicking from the same spot, one after the other. This is not a competition.” It was quite evident that this was a competition, and it would determine who the Colts kicker would be in their Super Bowl run. Fast-forward to practice, “typically on field goal position groups, the coaching staff and front office are doing their own thing. Not today, everyone in the entire Colts building was surrounding the kicking group to watch, and I was in the middle of it all.” Pat McAfee noted.
Matt Stover went first from an extra point distance. Snap, hold – kick is good. Next would be Adam Vinatieri, in his first kick in front of the team since getting surgery. Snap, hold – kick is good. “Okay Vinny!” one of the wide receivers exclaimed. The team backed up the ball roughly 10 yards, Stover once again lined up and put the ball through the uprights. Vinatieri did the same, and cheering began to grow for Vinatieri, while there was a noticeable silence every time Stover made a kick.
The ball was backed up once more, Stover lined up, snap, hold – no good. Adam Vinatieri, probably smelling blood in the water at this point, lines up and smashes the ball through the uprights. The crowd of players continued to cheer. The kickers traded off until each had attempted 10 field goals. Stover finished 6-of-10, while Vinatieri was perfect.
The consensus was that Vinatieri had won his spot back and would be the Colts kicker in the playoff run. General Manager Bill Polian spoke with Adam, and in the conversation Vinatieri revealed to Polian that he was still injured and was dealing with discomfort. He did not want to put his team in jeopardy as he was still fresh off major surgery.
The team made the decision to stick with Stover for the remainder of the season. McAfee pointed out that Stover told the team he will not compete with Vinatieri every day — which might suggest that he wasn’t interested in getting his butt kicked every day in competition. As for Vinatieri? He did not practice with the team again that season.
McAfee concludes the story by stating “In the Super Bowl against the Saints we lined up for a 51-yard field goal that Stover missed. I’m willing to bet a large sum of money that if we had Adam Vinatieri, that kick is going through the posts and I probably would have a championship ring right now.”
It’s easy to believe that there would be a different outcome if Vinatieri took the field in that game. Still, I believe this story does an excellent job of painting a picture that shows Vinatieri’s desire to compete. With no cameras on, behind closed doors, he wanted to prove to his team that he still had what it takes to play at a high level, even if that meant playing through pain. Having a mentality like that earns you respect in the locker room, and ultimately has made Adam Vinatieri the greatest kicker of all time.