INDIANAPOLIS – Adam Vinatieri has made a career out of defining the moment rather than letting a moment define him.
Vinatieri, a veteran of 15 NFL seasons, is one of the most accomplished kickers in history. Not only has he amassed 1,659 points, 12th-most in league history, and booted 364 career field goals, 11th-most ever, he has earned the reputation as one of the game's best kickers when it matters the most.
Vinatieri has delivered 23 game-winning field goals in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime during his entire career. Two of those boots settled Super Bowls in the waning seconds or as time expired. Five of those kicks have come with Indianapolis, where Vinatieri has played since 2006.
There are many players in sports who achieve greatness, but never were in the position to earn championships. There are a few like Vinatieri who have been outstanding throughout a career and have been a part of teams that achieved titles, and in his case multiple titles.
Vinatieri started his career with 13 consecutive seasons where he surpassed 100 points. That marks the second-longest NFL streak to open a career. There has been only one season, 2009, when he failed to eclipse the 100-point mark. He was slowed by injuries that year with Indianapolis and played in only six games.
Teams Vinatieri have played for have made the playoffs 12 times during his 15 years. Vinatieri's efforts have been relevant in helping his teams achieve that success. He is very appreciative of the way his career has unfolded.
"It means a lot. There are a lot of great kickers out there, a lot of great athletes out there, but very few guys are as fortunate as I am in the sense that I've been able to play on championship teams my entire career," said Vinatieri. "That makes a big difference. That's one of the things you think about when you re-sign. You want to play on a team that's a winning organization and having a chance to make the playoffs and an opportunity and a chance always to keep going and getting rings. I've been very, very fortunate and blessed to be able to play with guys like Peyton (Manning), Reggie (Wayne) and Marv (Marvin Harrison) and all those guys. It's definitely a blessing."
Teams have been blessed to have Vinatieri as well. He has played in 227 league games and 24 post-season games. His has converted 82.7 percent of his regular-season field goal attempts. He has bettered that in the post-season by converting at an 83.3 percentage.
In nine of his 15 seasons, he has converted at least 80 percent of his field goal attempts. Three times he connected on more than 90 percent. Vinatieri's 45 field goals and 54 attempts in the playoffs are NFL records, as are his 187 career points and 24 consecutive games scoring.
For Indianapolis in the playoffs after the 2006 season Vinatieri was superb. He hit 14-of-15 field goals, including six-of-six from 40 yards and two from 50 yards. He converted five field goals at Baltimore in a 15-6 Divisional victory, tying his own post-season total. Only seven players ever have hit five field goals in a playoff game, and Vinatieri is the only one to do it twice. Vinatieri scored 49 points in the Colts' four playoff games, the most individual points ever scored in one NFL post-season.
Vinatieri is one of 30 players who have been on the active roster for four winning Super Bowl teams, ranking behind only defensive end Charles Haley (5). He is one of 15 players to play in five or more Super Bowls (he was inactive for the Colts' in Super Bowl XLIV). Additionally, he is one of seven kickers with 500 points in regular season play for two different teams.
Vinatieri's accomplishments are voluminous. He, however, is not done. Vinatieri recently signed a three-year contract with the Colts, and he is grateful and ready to keep going.
"Until you sign, you never know what everybody's thoughts are. I know for me, there was absolutely no place that I would even consider or wanted to go other than staying here," said Vinatieri. "It's such a great organization, a great group of guys, the comfort level in just knowing this organization really well and it having such a high standard all the time. For me, this was definitely one of those things that it was a no-brainer. I definitely wanted to stay. I let them know that right away, and it was pretty easy getting it done."
Vinatieri realizes how fortunate he has been to be a part of such team success throughout his career. He has a deep appreciation for the organization in Indianapolis.
"It obviously starts at the top and goes all the way down," he said. "We have such a great owner who cares about winning football. Not just being an owner and having a team, but actually cares about winning. Therefore, he brings in the general managers and the head coaches who have the same philosophy and the same winning drive. From there, when you have players like Peyton (Manning) and Jeff (Saturday) and all these guys who are seasoned vets who know what it takes to win, and that's the only important thing, 'Let's do whatever it takes to win games.' The whole organization, from top down, all has one goal and that is to win games and make playoffs and continue on from there. When you have that philosophy and everybody has that same goal and everybody is striving to get to that goal, usually you're successful."
Vinatieri has seen organizations that have been able to win and win consistently, and he admires the commitment to philosophy and dedication to a blueprint that has gone into it.
"If you look at any of the successful organizations over the history of football, that's exactly what you have," said Vinatieri. "The teams in the past, the 49ers when they were winning those titles, the Pittsburgh's, the New England's and, obviously, the Colts, when you break down their organizations, you've got that (commitment to philosophy and blueprint) from top down. You have the continuity and the desire to win games. That's why they're successful."
Vinatieri was very good for the Colts in 2010. He hit 26-of-28 field goals (.929) and all 51 point-after conversions for 129 points, his second-highest seasonal point total. He was nine-of-10 from 40 yards during the season. Two of his three playoff kicks came from the same range, including a 50-yarder in the final minute that gave Indianapolis the lead in a Wild Card outing.
At 38, Vinatieri does not believe range is an issue. His only concern is putting the ball between the posts. As for his career, he has designs to play three more seasons, and, hopefully, then some.
"I take them always one year, one game, one day at a time. I'm feeling real healthy right now," he said. "I'm still young enough to go out there and do it well. This is a great situation for me. I'm so happy to be here. Getting that three-year deal is awesome. We're going to take them one year at a time. At the end of three years, we'll see how we feel."
One topic in the club's camp this year is the long-distance kicking prowess of Pat McAfee. There are reports of McAfee being able to hit field goals from 75 yards. Vinatieri chuckled and said he one hit one from 68 yards out in good conditions and that he believes the McAfee story to be true.
"I saw it on You Tube so unless they doctored it up (laughing)…I do believe him. He's got a big leg," said Vinatieri. "He's a great guy. He's a great guy to have on the team. If we ever get to a point where I might not have the range, I guess we have a good person to slide in there to try a 70-yarder. I don't think we get that opportunity too terribly often on the field. You usually don't get that opportunity in a game. Most of the time it's a major field position swing if you don't make it. It has to be the right situation to even attempt a 60 -yard field goal. It's got to be the last play of the half or the game, or be a 'have-to-go-for-it' situation."