INDIANAPOLIS – In most jobs, being unnoticed is a negative.
In Matt Overton's world, it is everything. Overton made the Colts' roster last year by supplanting Justin Snow, the club's long-snapper since 2000.
Overton was given a tryout after assistant special teams coach Brant Boyer noticed him in a free agent kicking camp. Overton was signed and would compete head-to-head with one of the most durable Colts players ever.
Snow missed no games and only one or two snaps during his 12-year stay and replacing someone so tenured and successful was Overton's charge.
"I really praise Justin Snow for the help he gave me. He really mentored me through the process," said Overton. "I looked up to him and appreciate what he did for me. I had the mindset that Justin was there for a long time and did a great job on and off the field, and my priority was to fill in the shoes that he left."
Overton was no neophyte. The Western Washington product had 2007 and 2010 free agent tryouts with Seattle. Those were sandwiched around stints in the af2 (2008) and UFL (2009), and Overton played in the UFL in 2010.
Chasing his dream finally led to Indianapolis. Overton seized the chance.
"I think I did pretty well for my first year," said Overton. "It definitely helped having Adam (Vinatieri) and Pat (McAfee) as mentors. The coaches were helpful. Every week was challenge. Training camp was a huge challenge.
"It was an emotional ride through my first year. Having the success we had as a team was awesome. I wanted to be consistent and help Adam and Pat be the best they could be. I wanted to help the team win and be an anchor on the special teams unit. I had personal goals and reached a couple of those. Other ones I fell short of, and that's why I'm looking forward to getting back this year and working with the coaches. I want to build on last year."
Being unnoticed meant that punts and field goals went off without a hitch. Those were targets that Overton reached. There was another he set that he did not get.
"I wanted to have all perfect snaps. That's the main thing," said Overton. "I also wanted to lead the NFL in tackles for long-snappers. I came in second, but I was really happy to lead AFC long-snappers in tackles. I wanted to contribute. Obviously, the snap was more important than blocking, but I wanted to get downfield and make plays. I was able to stay healthy, too. Making the playoffs was a goal, but I wanted us to be AFC South champs, AFC champs and world champs."
Overton knows coaches critique everything. That is fine with him. He prides himself on being very critical, and he knows there are fundamental aspects on which to improve.
"I'm (tough) critiquing things, and the coaches critique everything. There are some fundamental aspects that I want to improve on."
"It (protection) was probably my biggest challenge," said Overton. "A lot of the schemes changed every week. It's one of those things where the technique I've been coached, it works almost every time. As long as I continue to trust in it and not over-think it, it will work and help to my advantage.
"It helped having great guys on the line with me. I think the more success I have and comfortable I get, I'll improve. That's something that's a focus on this year."
Chuck Pagano cut some of his coaching teeth on special teams, and Overton did not raise an eyebrow for Pagano.
"You never noticed he was there. Matt did a great job," said Pagano. "He came in and competed with Justin Snow, who had a great career here. Matt jumped in, and we didn't miss a beat. We had one blocked punt last year, but it wasn't because of the snap. He was spot-on and did a great job.
"Matt will get stronger and bigger. He does have some things to work on from a protection standpoint. He'll be the first to tell you. From an accuracy standpoint, he was excellent. It could have been really intimidating, but Matt never flinched. He just came to work every day."
Overton felt he adapted to the NFL quickly.
"Once we got to preseason, I was more acclimated to the speed of the game and understanding the concepts the coaches were teaching," said Overton. "Practice and games are so different. Once I was comfortable in a game setting, I was confident in my abilities.
"When the season arrived, I got close to Adam and Pat and the coaching staff, and I got more comfortable with them during the year. I appreciated the help they gave along the way."
Overton was more than a footnote in the club's 11 victories. It was a solid start for an NFL career. Two moments stood out in particular.
"The game-winner over Minnesota was my first NFL win. It was Adam's longest game-winning field goal. That was special," said Overton. "In preseason when we were at Heinz Field against Pittsburgh, we had a field goal to end the first half. It was one of the longest kicked to that end of the field in history. It was preseason and didn't count (in the records), but that was cool, too.
"It took a long time to get to the NFL. I always dreamed of having moments like that. To share that with Adam is pretty awesome."
Vinatieri hit 26-of-33 field goals and all 37 PATs for 115 points, his 15th career 100-point season. The total moved him ahead of Morten Andersen and Gary Anderson and behind Jason Elam (16) for the most in history. Vinatieri hit a 53-yard game-winner against Minnesota, the longest of his 24 such career efforts. He was 13-of-17 from outside 40 yards and hit four kicks from 50-plus yards. Vinatieri (413-of-500) became the eighth NFL player with 400 field goals, and his attempts rank 10th in history. With 709 points with the Colts, Vinatieri joined Andersen and John Carney as the only players with 700-plus points with two teams.
McAfee* *(73-48.2, 40.3 net) set the club seasonal marks for gross and net average. McAfee has set the gross mark in each of the last two seasons (46.6, 2011). In setting the mark last year, he snapped the previous seasonal record of Rohn Stark (45.9, 1985). McAfee's net average bested Stark's previous record, and his 2011 had ranked second (39.3, Stark, 1992; 39.2, McAfee, 2011). McAfee had 26 punts inside the 20, tying Hunter Smith's seasonal record (26, 2002).