INDIANAPOLIS — When Pat McAfee was selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the seventh round of the 2009 NFL Draft, he entered a locker room already inhabited by one of the best, and most clutch, kickers in the game of football.
And, after eight seasons and hundreds of successful field goals and extra-point attempts together, it's no surprise that McAfee and that kicker, Adam Vinatieri, have become the best of buds both on and off the field.
When McAfee publicly announced last week he was going to retire from the Colts and the NFL to pursue a career with Barstool Sports, one can imagine Vinatieri wasn't caught off-guard. After all, the two have spent countless numbers of hours together each day both during the season and in the offseason, and it's inevitable that a conversation about each other's future plans had already surfaced prior to last week.
Nevertheless, Vinatieri said he was still sad to see McAfee officially hang up his cleats, breaking up an impressive special teams trio of Pro Bowlers that also includes Colts long snapper Matt Overton.
"He started laughing when I said it, but it's a somber day for me," Vinatieri said Monday at the Indiana State House, where he received the Sagamore of the Wabash Award — the highest civilian honor available in the state. "Losing one of the three amigos is tough. Obviously we know the talent that he is on the football field, but he's an awesome friend and so much fun in the locker room."
McAfee's antics both on and off the field have been well-documented, which, according to Vinatieri, means "the building's just going to be different without him, for sure."
The task now for new Colts general manager Chris Ballard is to find a capable replacement for McAfee, which is easier said than done, considering he has been one of the top punters in the league, as well as an outstanding kickoff specialist.
McAfee also served the underrated role as Vinatieri's holder to near-perfection, meaning the "Three Amigos" will need to find a new piece to get them whole once again.
"Whoever's going to be the next guy has got some huge, huge shoes to fill, because (McAfee's) just the best out there — the best that there is," Vinatieri said. "So it'll be interesting, to say the least."
Vinatieri also was asked about a plethora of other topics during his State House visit on Monday, including:
On new Colts general manager Chris Ballard:
"I'm excited to move forward with the season; excited to see what kind of changes he's making. And the last couple of years we've been OK, but we just haven't kept that Colt way on the field often enough. We'll win a good game, and then other things will happen and we'll lose a game. And I'm excited to get back to the Colt winning way."
On his former team, the New England Patriots, winning yet another Super Bowl title:
"You sit there and you wonder how they keep doing it? Coach Belichick and Tom Brady, obviously it's a team that wins that game, not just those two, but what those gentlemen have done specifically — seven Super Bowls, winning five of them — that's amazing. It really is, you know? In this state we've been blessed with unbelievably good quarterbacks, and Tom Brady, you win five Super Bowls, you just passed Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana — argumentatively the best quarterback to ever play — and to watch him do it at 39 years old, continue to do it at that level, you know … in the end, you don't have to love him, but you have to dang-well respect him because they're really, really good."
On setting a Guinness World Record for most 20-yard kicks made in a 60-second span last week:
"It was difficult — I'm not going to lie to you. The first majority of them were easy; the last few, I got real, real tired. So it's not like something that we normally do. You know, we go out and you have you have one shot. If you make it, great; if you don't, bad things. But hitting 28 kicks in 60 seconds was a lot of fun, and I had the opportunity to have my holder, Pat McAfee — punter extraordinaire — to be able to be there and partake in it with me, so that was fun. One last time."
On kicker Morten Andersen being elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2017:
"That's awesome. You know, I've been lobbying for him — obviously I don't have a vote — but a guy that plays 25 years, puts 2,500 points up; you know, the top guy for so many years. I was surprised it took as long as it did for him to get into the Hall of Fame, but I'm very, very pleased for him, excited for him that now he gets to have a bust in Canton and is revered as, you know, a Hall of Famer. It's awesome."
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