Before Adam Vinatieri drilled a Lombardi-winning kick for the New England Patriots, and before he cemented his Hall of Fame-worthy career over a decade and a half with the Colts, he was an undrafted kicker from South Dakota State seeking a way to get his foot in the NFL's door.
It's easy to forget now – not just because this was the mid-1990's, but because Vinatieri will be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame beginning in 2024 – but Vinatieri's path to the NFL was not a straight line. Here's how he explained it on this week's "Colts Reunion" podcast with Matt Taylor and Bill Brooks:
"When my senior year came around, I had a couple of (Canadian Football League) teams that were interested in me. But my dreams and goals and thoughts were NFL always, probably like every American kid. I had a couple of NFL teams that talked to me — Steve Hoffman with the Dallas Cowboys said we're gonna bring you in as an undrafted free agent. I knew I wasn't going to get drafted coming from a small school, my stats weren't there. I just wasn't the high-powered recruit out of college.
"But draft came and went and I didn't get any phone calls, so it was like, oh my gosh, what am I going to do next? I really wasn't willing to give up football yet. At that point, I thought I still had a chance and something to offer at that point. So as I started to search around, I started working with a kicking coach down in Virginia who had connections with NFL Europe, and I guess they spotted me and the Amsterdam Admirals decided that they thought it would be a good pickup for their team. And I'm glad they did because it worked out pretty well.
"At training camp in Georgia — it was at the Atlanta Falcons training camp where all the NFL Europe teams met up before they flew overseas and went to their respective countries. And so all of the specialists work together for a couple of weeks, and a lot of NFL coaches were there recruiting and watching and that kind of stuff. That's where I met New England's coach and ironically enough Clyde Powers, who was a scout with the Colts at the time. So the two teams leaving Amsterdam that had some interest in me at the time were Indy and New England. At the time I felt New England was the one that I actually had a better shot of actually making the team, so I started with them and the rest of history from there."
Other topics covered in the latest Colts Reunion Podcast with Vinatieri:
- What he's up to after his playing career ended
- How he's coaching his son, AJ
- Memories from his early playing days with the Patriots
- Why he chose Indianapolis after leaving New England
- Similarities and differences between the 2000's Patriots and Colts
- How he was able to make so many clutch kicks in his career
- What 2019, his final season in the NFL, was like for him