The numbers are so phenomenal, they seem to define Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri.
However, with all the winning kicks in regular-season games and Super Bowls, with the consecutive field-goal streaks he has had and now has entering Sunday’s game at Tennessee, the two numbers that jump off the page are simple ones: 21 and 43.
They don’t represent his kicking; they merely show how long he has been booming footballs through goalposts in the NFL. Vinatieri is 43 years old (he turns 44 on Dec. 28) and is in his 21st NFL season.
The youngest player on the Colts roster is rookie safety T.J. Green, a second-round pick this year. He turned 21 on March 15. When Green was born, Vinatieri was 22.
Colts punter and holder Pat McAfee is in his eighth NFL season and was a seventh-round pick in 2009, three years after Vinatieri signed with Indianapolis as an unrestricted free agent after kicking 10 seasons for the New England Patriots.
McAfee virtually can’t control himself when talking about Vinatieri and explaining what it’s been like to play with him for eight seasons.
Said McAfee, “He’s the most competitive human to ever walk this earth. And I understand that sounds like an oversell. We are in a world of oversells. Everything is breaking news. Everything is incredible. Everything is the best of all time. But with Adam Vinatieri, you are talking about literally the greatest of all time.
“I believe he’s the most competitive person in the history of the world. Every single thing with him is a competition to him. And he handles it with class. He’s not the obnoxious competitive person. But every single kick to him is (not only) a chance to make his team better, but also to improve himself. Every single kick he wants to prove that he’s the best kicker ever.”
It’s hard to argue with McAfee as Vinatieri is on the verge of tying and breaking the NFL’s all-time record for consecutive field goals made. He reached 41 during last Sunday night’s game against Houston and could make history in Nashville this weekend.
Former Colts player Mike Vanderjagt, who quarterback Peyton Manning once famously referred to as an “idiot kicker,” holds the record with 42. Vinatieri began his streak in Week 4 of the 2015 season, and since then more than 40 NFL kickers have missed 190 field-goal attempts.
Truly remarkable is how he seems to be getting better as he gets older, especially at longer distances. During the streak, he has made 9 kicks from 50 yards or more, with the longest 55. Vinatieri has also made 14 kicks from 40 yards or more including 7 of 46 yards or more with 2 from 48 yards and 3 from 49.
Yes, kicking at least eight games each season in the Indianapolis dome has helped, but he’s not the only kicker in the league that has a dome as his home field. In his first 12 seasons, Vinatieri was 8 of 19 from 50 yards or more and had five seasons with none. Since 2008, he is 24 of 32 and is 13 of 14 since the start of the 2014 season. Also since the start of the 2014 season, his overall 95.9 percent success rate (71 of 74) is the best in the NFL and at the end of 2013 into 2014, he had a streak of 35 consecutive successful attempts.
Overall, in his career, Vinatieri has converted 84.5 percent of his field-goal attempts, 12th best all-time, and only 2.4 percentage points separates him from the kicker that replaced him in New England, Stephen Gostkowski, who is fourth all-time at 86.9.
His 519 field goals is the third most in league history. Morten Andersen holds the league record with 565, followed by Gary Anderson with 538. He is third in points with 2,315, also behind Andersen and Anderson, and is the only kicker in history to have at least 1,000 points with two teams: 1,158 with the Patriots and 1,157 with the Colts.
The humble Vinatieri doesn’t want to talk much about the records he is accumulating. He said, “I very seldom pay attention to any individual awards or accolades. For me, I am trying to help my team win games. If you go out there and do your job, eventually, like (former Colts wide receiver) Reggie (Wayne) said, things start to pile up and stack up. For me, it’s much more about team victories and trying to help the team win than it is for personal stuff.”
He also makes sure to compliment those that contribute to his success. Vinatieri simply states, “It’s flying well right now. I definitely have to give a lot of props to the guys up front blocking for me. (Long snapper) Matt (Overton) and Pat are doing a fantastic job making my job a little easier, but sometimes they go where they are supposed to go.”
For Adam Vinatieri, they go where they are supposed to go most of the time.