Adam Vinatieri - Road to Greatness

Adam Vinatieri - Road to Greatness

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The fact that Adam Vinatieri, the former Rapid City Cobbler and South Dakota State Jackrabbit, is still knocking the football through the uprights with outstanding accuracy (84.3 percent) at the age of 45, is somewhat remarkable.

Nobody could have predicted the success Vinatieri has enjoyed as an NFL kicker from his early kicking days in South Dakota.

Vinatieri is a South Dakotan through and through. Not only was he born and raised there, but his great-great grandfather Felix Vinatieri served as bandmaster for Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer, who led the U.S. government’s first expedition into South Dakota’s Black Hills.

At Central, Adam lettered in football, wrestling, soccer, and track. In football, he garnered first team All-State honors as a senior; he graduated in 1991. Recently, a former Rapid City Central head football coach unearthed an Adam Vinatieri high school jersey with his old number 8. He went to the Colts vs. Texans game last year to give it to Adam.

“It brought me back my roots, where I came from. I mean, we’re talking 25 or 30 years ago that I had a Central Cobbler jersey on, so that was a special moment, and it was really cool that he did that and thought of me like that.”


From there he initially attended West Point but returned to South Dakota and enrolled at South Dakota State University, where he was best-known as a punter from 1992-94, earning first-team all-conference honors in each of those three seasons. He was a talented kicker as well and kicked 27 field goals, a then-school record that has since been surpassed. But SDSU was a Division II school at that time and had produced few memorable NFL players (the most memorable that was a SDSU grad was Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Langer, the center for the Dolphins when they went undefeated in 1972 - also the same year of Vinatieri’s birth).

In fashion true to his South Dakota roots, Vinatieri worked his way into the NFL by force of will. He spent a year training and improving and a season with an NFL Europe League’s Amsterdam Admirals as a punter and a kicker, before trying out with New England Patriots. It was head coach and Gold Jacket Bill Parcells that picked him over veteran Matt Bahr.

Between his time with the Patriots and now the Colts, he has played in five Super Bowls and kicked the game-winner in two of them.

Vinatieri admits he never thought he would play this long or have a shot at Andersen’s scoring record.

“I remember playing against Morten Andersen, probably my sixth or seventh year in the league, and thinking, ‘Gosh, this guy has played two decades plus, and this is such an amazing kind of thing,'” Vinatieri told the Journal on Wednesday. “A couple of years ago I thought, ‘You know, if I keep going, I might be able to catch him.’”

And keep going he does. Going into his 23rd year in the league that includes two Super Bowl game-winning kicks, he should be used to it by now. But every year is a different year, he said, as there are new players and new coaching staffs along the way and a multitude of changes.

“I stop what I am doing and take a peek to make sure that I still make that kick at the end of those Super Bowls, stuff like that,” he said.

Spoiler alert. Right through the uprights and let that ball keep traveling to Canton.

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