INDIANAPOLIS --- If being voted to the Pro Bowl is a big honor, then being voted first-team All-Pro is an even bigger honor. On Friday, the Associated Press released their 2014 All-Pro teams, and Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri and punter Pat McAfee each were voted onto the first-team.
It means McAfee and Vinatieri were not only elite in the 2014 regular season but the best player at their position in the NFL. McAfee received 26 out of a possible 50 votes. Vinatieri earned 25 votes (three other Colts also received at least one vote: QB Andrew Luck, CB Vontae Davis, and ILB D'Qwell Jackson).
"It's an honor. For me being the old guy in the league, not only in the locker room but in the league, it says something about your longevity," said Vinatieri Friday, who is the oldest player in the NFL at 42, coming off the most accurate season of his career converting 30-31 field goals and 50-50 extra points. "For me I feel the older you get, the harder you have to work...to be able to hit the higher standards and stuff, it gives you a lot of self satisfaction."
It is the third time (2002, 2004) Vinatieri has been named first-team All-Pro in his 19 NFL seasons. Is the first time for McAfee being voted first-team All-Pro in his 6th season as a professional.
"It's all a testament to the special teams guys we have this year," said McAfee after having the news broken to him in the locker room Friday about the All-Pro selection. "The luckiest thing that I've had in my life is a chance to work under a guy who's going to go down as the greatest of all-time, because the amount of things I've learned on-the-field and off-the-field from (Vinatieri) is just priceless."
McAfee set the franchise record for punts pinned inside the 20-yard-line this season with 30, breaking his old mark of 27 set just last season. He also set a Colts record with a net punting average of 42.8. That also broke the old record set by McAfee of 40.3 in 2012.
He credits much of his success this season to taking care of his body, another area he says he learned from Vinatieri after asking him how he could punt and kick in the NFL until he's 40 (McAfee is 27).
"The big thing he told me was my body," said McAfee. "He said every five years your body is going to change. It's going to adapt. I just thought it was really time to start taking care of my body, start listening to things, start eating better, stop drinking as much or at all. Actually, I don't drink anymore. It's been a fun run. It's all credit to Adam Vinatieri's knowledge."
And with these latest 1st-team All-Pro special teamers, the days of out-of-shape kickers and punters are long gone.
"I think the old school kickers and punters and specialists, that's 80s and all that time," said Vinatieri. "I think the guys in the league now are definitely athletes. If you looked across the league and asked the guys...they were a soccer player. They might have been a quarterback for their high school team. Hunter Smith, who used to be here, was a receiver at Notre Dame. There are guys that are really good athletes. The old stigma of punters and kickers not being really good athletes, I think that's really changed a lot in the past decade or two."
After all, kickers and punters are people too...and McAfee and Vinatieri are the best of the best in 2014. It's no wonder they call themselves the "4th Down Army".