INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The hype associated with this week’s NFL draft has failed to ensnare Adam Vinatieri.
“I just pay attention if my team drafts a kicker,’’ he said Tuesday with a smile. “Other than that I don’t pay too much attention to it, to be honest with you.
“Little bit, but not much.’’
Vinatieri’s draft-day memory winds back April 22, 1995. He was a hit-and-miss kicker out of South Dakota State sitting next to the telephone at his home in Yankton. He was waiting for a call he knew would never come.
“You’ve got to be a really good kicker to get drafted in general,’’ Vinatieri said as the Indianapolis Colts opened their voluntary minicamp.
At the time, Vinatieri wasn’t a really good kicker. In four seasons with the Jackrabbits, he converted 27-of-53 field goal attempts.
“I had a couple of teams that said, ‘We’re not going to draft you, but expect a phone call as maybe a free agent-type thing,’’ he said. “My phone never rang.
“I guess they told me something. Shame on them.’’
Wow, Vinatieri throwing some shade at those who failed to see what everyone now sees.
The ’95 draft consisted of 249 picks. It began with the Cincinnati Bengals selecting running back Ki-Jana Carter with the first overall pick and saw two placekickers selected: Arizona’s Steve McLaughlin (by the St. Louis Rams in the second round) and USC’s Cole Ford (by Pittsburgh in round 7, with pick No. 247).
Ford’s career lasted four seasons and was lackluster: 45-of-62 on field-goal attempts. McLaughlin appeared in eight games as a rookie in ’95 and ended after converting just 8-of-16 attempts.
Vinatieri? Well, things had a way of working out. After a year with Amsterdam in the World League, he signed with the New England Patriots on June 28, 1996.
You know the rest, or should. From Foxborough to Indy (in 2006) to . . . Canton, Ohio five years after he hangs up his cleats. Pressure kicks, Super Bowl victories, moments and memories that will last a lifetime.
Vinatieri, 45, remains the NFL’s oldest active player. Since 1950, he’s just the sixth player to play at that age.
His longevity is a direct result of his productivity. He needs 58 points to break Morten Andersen’s all-time NFL record. He ranks second in made field goals (559, seven shy of surpassing Andersen’s record) and third in attempts (663). Over the last five seasons, he’s converted 146-of-163 field-goal attempts (89.6 percent), including 23-of-29 (79.3) on attempts of at least 50 yards.
Despite general manager Chris Ballard’s roster-wide youth movement, it was a virtual no-brainer when he opted to re-sign Vinatieri in early March to a one-year, $3.625 million contract.
“I was hoping to be back,’’ Vinatieri said. “I knew I wanted to play again (and) wanted to make sure it was here if I could. They expressed the same interest and we got it done pretty easily.
“Love to finish my career here if it’s this year, next year, whatever. This is home to me.’’
Vinatieri’s story is one of persistence, of chasing your dream even when those in control of your dream job are telling you “No thanks, kid.’’
“There’s a lot of kids out there right now hoping they get drafted or hoping they get signed to continue their life-long dreams and goals,’’ he said. “There will be a lot of guys that make it and some that don’t.
“I’ve had so many teammates and so many guys across the league that were late-round picks or non-draft picks and play a nice, long career and do some really great stuff.’’
Vinatieri is considered a lock for Canton, and would represent the latest example that Hall of Famers come from all across the spectrum. Fourteen Hall of Famers were taken with the 1st overall pick in the draft. Seventeen weren’t drafted at all, including Kurt Warner, John Randle and Warren Moon.
“Just because you’re not a first- or second- or third-rounder doesn’t mean you can’t contribute and play a lot of years and play good football, that’s for sure,’’ Vinatieri said.