Adam Vinatieri is the most clutch placekicker in NFL history.

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Vinatieri is pro football’s version of Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer of all time.  The oldest player in the National Football League is perhaps the game’s most reliable.  The 44-year-old Vinatieri has scored more postseason points [224] and made more overtime field goals [12] than any player in history.  He has twice kicked Super Bowl-winning field goals as time expired, and made the toughest kick of all time – a 45-yarder in five inches of snow – to send the 2001 “Tuck Rule Game” into overtime.  “Automatic Adam” owns ten NFL records, including converting 44 straight field goals, and has won four Super Bowls.  Vinatieri has played 22 NFL seasons – ten with New England and a dozen with the Indianapolis Colts.  A three-time All-Pro, he is member of the NFLs 2000s All-Decade Team as well as the Patriots’ 50th Anniversary Team.  Vinatieri is the only player in league history to score 1,000 points for two franchises and has participated in 219 NFL victories, most of any player in history.

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Born in Yankton, South Dakota, December 28, 1972, Vinatieri grew up in the shadow of the Black Hills.  The second of four children, he struggled with reading and spelling in grade school, and landed in special education classes in fourth, fifth and sixth grades.  “I studied twice as long and twice as hard as everybody else,” the fiercely-proud Vinatieri recalled.  “I had to learn that you just out-effort everybody else and you’re going to be successful.”  At Rapid City Central High School, he lettered in soccer, football, wrestling and track – as a pole vaulter.  An option quarterback and middle linebacker in football, Vinatieri also handled kicking duties for the Cobblers, earning All-State honors as a senior.

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The star athlete also became an honors student who earned admission to the United States Military Academy.  He arrived at West Point in the summer of 1991 as a model plebe.  Needing more time to study than other Cadets, he quickly fell behind and left Army after two weeks.  Vinatieri returned home and contacted South Dakota State, a Division II school that had recruited him coming out of high school.  He accepted a partial scholarship and immediately became the starting kicker and punter.  As a sophomore, Vinatieri booted a school record 53-yard field goal, a mark he tied as a senior.  After being named All-Conference three times as a kicker and punter, he left SDSU as the Jackrabbits’ all-time leading scorer, with 185 points.

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Upon graduating SDSU, Vinatieri moved to Abington, Virginia, to work with kicking coach Doug Blevins, who had just been hired by the World League of American Football [later NFL Europe].  Blevins drafted the powerful kicker in the 14th round of the World League draft, and Vinatieri headed to the Netherlands to play for the Amsterdam Admirals.  He impressed Admirals coach Al Tanara, who touted his kicker to New England Patriots coach Bill Parcells, Tanara’s former staffmate at Texas Tech.

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Vinatieri began his NFL career when Tom Brady was a redshirt freshman at Michigan and Peyton Manning was a junior at Tennessee.  As a rookie, Vinatieri beat out veteran Matt Bahr to claim the Pats placekicking duties.   After chasing down Hershel Walker during a kickoff return in Week 15, Parcells told his first-year kicker, “You’re not a kicker – you’re a football player!”  Vinatieri’s rookie season ended with the first of his five career Super Bowl appearances, a 35-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers in which be converted three PATs.

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“Iceman” showed the football world his mettle in the 2001 playoffs against the Oakland Raiders, when he drilled a 45-yard field goal into a swirling winter wind in Foxboro to send the game into overtime.  Displaying the guts of a burglar during overtime, Vinatieri – who is third-cousin to former daredevil Evel Knievel — cleared snow from where he wanted the ball spotted before splitting the uprights from 23 yards away to send New England to the Super Bowl.  Two weeks later, he calmly booted a 48-yarder to beat the St. Louis Rams on the final play of Super Bowl XXXVI.

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After a decade in New England, the best kicker in football parted ways with the best franchise in the game.  Prior to the 2006 season, Vinatieri accepted a five year, $ 12 million deal – far more than the Pats were offering — from the Indianapolis Colts.  The Colts were looking to replace the aging Mike Vanderjagt, whose miss in a 2005 playoff game against Pittsburgh cost Indy its season.  In his first season with the Horseshoes, Vinatieri converted 25 of 28 field goal attempts and helped Indianapolis to its first Super Bowl victory.  In the title game, he kicked five field goals and converted two extra points en route to hoisting his fourth Lombardi Trophy.

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Vinatieri’s longevity can be attributed to several factors.  The SDSU fitness and wellness major takes excellent care of himself and is dedicated to perfecting his craft.  Vinatieri’s kicking technique is flawless and his work ethic unmatched, but it is his mental fortitude that makes the Iceman the best kicker in pro football history.  He also benefits from playing in a dome.  In a dozen seasons in Indianapolis, Vinatieri has made better than 90 percent of his field goals in three of them.  In 2014, he missed only one three-point attempt in 31 tries and has been perfect on PAT conversions in eight of his seasons with the Colts.  Like a fine wine, Vinatieri is aging gracefully.  In the past six seasons, Automatic Adam has made at least one field goal from beyond 50 yards, including a 54-yarder last season.

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Vinatieri has kicked the third-most field goals [529] in NFL history.  In 322 career games, the right-footed sidewinder has made 530 of 629 three-point attempts while converting 786 of 799 extra points.  His career long is 57 yards [in 2002] and “Mr. Clutch” has had only nine kicks blocked in 22 seasons.  With a singular focus and explosive trajectory, he made seven field goals from at least 50 yards in 2016, tying for second-most in the NFL.  Colts holder Pat McAfee calls Vinatieri “the most competitive person I’ve ever met in my life.”  Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck, who is notorious for his preparation, admires his kicker’s “relentless consistency in approach and the seriousness with which he attacks every drill, every session, every day.”

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A clause in Vinatieri’s contract would have earned him a $ 500,000 bonus in 2016 had he made 90 percent of his field goal attempts.  A Week 17 miss from 48 yards against Jacksonville cost him the money.  The miss was rare, as the veteran managed to make 27 of 31 [87.1 percent] field goal attempts and was perfect on all 44 PATs in 2016.  As he enters his 23rd season, Vinatieri is fourth on the list of all-time field goal attempts, 12 behind George Blanda, who retired at 48.   The seemingly-ageless Vinatieri is third on the list of all-time leading scorers in NFL history.  Entering the 2017 season, he is 56 points behind Gary Anderson and trails the league’s all-time leading scorer, Morton Anderson, by 166 points.  Vinatieri has averaged just over 121 points per season for the last seven years, so overtaking Anderson in 2018 is not only possible, it’s probable.

On this date in 1996, Adam Venatieri kicked six extra points and two field goals to lead the Amsterdam Admirals to a 48-14 victory over the Barcelona Dragons before 8,712 spectators at Olypisch Stadion in Amsterdam.


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