Colts’ Adam Vinatieri thought scoring record was ‘untouchable’ (he was wrong)

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(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Adam Vinatieri considered Morten Andersen’s record too far out there, untouchable.

The most prolific placekickers in NFL history met in 2007, as Vinatieri was settling into the second phase of his decorated career with the Indianapolis Colts and Andersen’s soon-to-be Hall of Fame career was winding down with the Atlanta Falcons.

They chatted before the game, talking kicker stuff. At some point, Vinatieri paused and considered Andersen’s NFL record for points and shook his head. At the end of ’07, Andersen, the former Ben Davis H.S. transfer student, had pushed his record total to 2,544 points.

Vinatieri’s total stood at 1,389.

“I just thought, ‘Man, this is unbelievable. This is a record that will never be touched. He’s done it so long for so many years and so prolifically,’’’ he said. “I just thought, ‘Man, it’s untouchable.’

“But I guess as you keep going and you just stack years upon years, the numbers start stacking up. Probably a couple two, three years ago I said, ‘Yeah, actually if you play for three or four years, five years, you might have a chance.’ So it was always in the back of my mind (but) it was never a driving thing for me.’’

Vinatieri’s pursuit of this particular milestone – arguably the most significant individual achievement in the ultimate team sport – began Sept. 1, 1996. His first points came on a 25-yard field goal for New England in a 24-10 loss at Miami.

Appropriately, Andersen’s record fell when Vinatieri converted a 25-yarder in the closing seconds of the second quarter of the Colts’ 42-28 win over the Oakland Raiders.

In his 345th regular-season game, he would finish with 10 points – two field goals, four PATs – and push the record to 2,550.

“You know, I never thought I’d play this long and have the opportunity to be standing up here talking about this right now,’’ Vinatieri said. “Being in that locker room . . . that’s the best part about today. It’s less the record but more that we got the record on a win.’’

It was a celebratory, emotional scene in the locker room as Frank Reich presented Vinatieri the game ball.

“How often do you get to say this?’’ Reich said, his voice rising. “This ball goes to the greatest of all time!’’

Vinatieri’s teammates erupted. He choked up.

“I’ve been blessed to play for a long time,’’ he said. “I’ve been surrounded by just a ton of incredible athletes, man. I tell you want from the bottom of my heart: you guys mean the world to me, man. Really for real . . . I love every one of you guys.’’

The feeling was mutual.

“We got to witness something really special today,’’ Reich said in his post-game press conference. “We saw the greatest kicker of all time break that record. That’s pretty special.

“We celebrated in the locker room, and that’s pretty cool. We just could not be more proud that Adam Vinatieri is on our team and what he means to our team.’’

Added Andrew Luck: “I’d be remiss not to mention Vinny, the greatest of all time, making his big kicks.

“I really don’t think we fully appreciate what just happened. He doesn’t make a big deal out of anything. He approaches everything with such a professionalism and humility and deflects attention that I think we get lulled to sleep.

“I love playing with him. He’s taught me so much. How to handle yourself, how to be a pro. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I’ll get to tell my grand kids and kids down the road that right now I play with Adam Vinatieri and at some point I got to play with Adam Vinatieri. He’s the best, the best ever.’’

Vinatieri’s record day nearly was put on hold after he aggravated a groin injury last Sunday against Buffalo. He received hours upon hours of treatment in the days leading up to the Raiders game, and tested the groin injury by kicking in Thursday’s practice.

The Colts prepared for the possibility of being without Vinatieri by holding tryouts with Cairo Santos, Kai Forbath and Taylor Bertolet.

“I’m not going to lie to you, I was a little sore at the beginning of the week,’’ Vinatieri said. “We brought in a couple of kickers to see if I couldn’t go. And I hated (it). I hate watching anybody for a day, you know, doing my job.’’

As Vinatieri’s post-game press conference was winding down, he was asked how much longer he planned on kicking. He’s in his 23rd season and at 45 is the NFL’s oldest active player.

“I’ve always sat there and said, ‘As long as I’m an asset and not a liability,’’’ he said. “You know, if I can do it at a high level, there’s no place in the world I’d rather be . . . being on West 56th Street with all these guys is a special place to be.

“I’m not setting a stop or a timer or anything. You know, if I feel well and I can still do it, I don’t see why I shouldn’t continue.’’

There’s still work to be done?

“That’s right,’’ Vinatieri said. “Set that record even farther for the next guy.’’

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.

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