With a January blizzard in his face and ice water in his veins, Adam Vinatieri warmed the hearts of every Patriots’ fan at the 2001 Division Championship. His 45-yard field goal with 23 seconds left tied the Oakland Raiders at 13-13. Then in OT, he gave a new meaning to his nickname “Iceman” when he notched the 23-yard game winner.
Two weeks later in the Superdome for XXXVI against the St. Louis Rams, Vinatieri ignited the souls of us all. With the game tied at 17-17, he kicked a 48-yard gem with no time on the clock, and we had won our first Super Bowl, 20-17.
Two years later in XXXVIII in Houston, Vinatieri kept the flame burning by kicking a 41-yard field goal with four seconds left to beat the Carolina Panthers, 32-29.
And the next year in Jacksonville, the Patriots didn’t need any last-minute heroics from Vinatieri, just a routine field goal and three PATs, to beat the Philadelphia Eagles 24-21 in Super Bowl XXXIX.
From 1996-2005, “Automatic Adam” kicked 18 game-winning field goals with less than one-minute remaining, including the postseason. In his 10 seasons, Vinatieri accrued 1,156 points and made his #4 a most popular Patriots jersey, right up there with #12.
After the 2005 season, the Pats did not place the “franchise tag” on Vinatieri, allowing him to become a free agent. He signed with the Indianapolis Colts and, along with Peyton Manning, won another Super Bowl in 2006.
Originally from the Rapid City area of South Dakota, home of Mt. Rushmore, Vinatieri is now 43, the oldest active player in the NFL. He is an avid golfer and sportsman and is a member at The Preserve at Boulder Hills in Wyoming, Rhode Island, New England’s only four season sporting retreat. The golf course is an exceptional par-3 venue, and The Preserve 18 Tournament on September 26th offers $1,000,000 for the first ace on each hole.
Vinatieri has been married for 16 years to Valeri and has three children.
OK, plenty of time left on the clock for the future Hall of Famer’s comments, and just like most of his field goal attempts, they’re good!
NEGM: How did you specialize as a placekicker in the first place?
AV: I started playing Pop Warner football in the fifth grade as a quarterback and linebacker, but the coach asked if anyone wanted to be the kicker. I’d been playing soccer since I was five years old, so I said, “I’ll try.” I got the job and started to develop from there. Soon I was kicking more footballs than soccer balls.
NEGM: How did you pull off those three remarkable field goals in the 2001 playoffs?
AV: Being in the right place at the right time! The first one in the snow against Oakland was a crazy day with a lot of white stuff on the playing surface, a pretty heavy blizzard, the “Tuck Rule” play, and a Raiders team that had come to play. I was lucky I had the opportunity to tie the game up. I knew it was a low-percentage kick, but all I could think about was starting the ball on line and getting the ball above the line of scrimmage. Thank goodness it went through. Then when I had the opportunity on a shorter one to seal the game for us, that one went through, too.
Fast forward two weeks to New Orleans. A 48 yarder in the Super Bowl is never an easy proposition, but after going through the Oakland game, I just told myself to get this sucker up and on line and it would go. When it went through the uprights, I had this amazing reaction, “Holy Cow, we have just won the Super Bowl!” We were massive underdogs throughout the playoffs, and we had just won the greatest show on turf. The first time you win that Lombardi trophy, there is no feeling in the world like it, let me tell you.
NEGM: What is your mindset when you know your kick will be the difference between victory and defeat?
AV: I try not to think about that in particular because that would take my mind off the kick itself. I mean, obviously, I know the game situation, but I just try to focus on the technical side. I can’t control the snap or the hold or the defenders coming at me. My job begins when the ball is on the ground in front of me. That’s when I block out everything else going on around me and concentrate only on the execution.
It’s like what Coach Belichick would always say to us—that you focus on the little things that you have to do, and do one thing at a time. You do your job individually, do what you have to do, and then collectively, as a team, everything else will fall into place. And that’s what’s made this team so successful year after year.
NEGM: What else will you remember most about your 10 years with the Patriots?
AV: So many, many great memories. The fans are just amazing and incredibly supportive. Playing at the old Foxboro stadium and then Gillette, it was always an electric atmosphere. I certainly appreciate the opportunity that I had to play for the Patriots and the achievements that followed. For me, specifically, what I take away the most is the relationships that I built with my other teammates. Many of those guys are still my best friends 15 years later and always will be.
NEGM: You played with both Tom Brady and Peyton Manning? How special was that? Did you get to play golf with either?
AV: I was just so incredibly fortunate to play with two of the best quarterbacks that have ever played the game. You can’t write a better book! And we won a lot of games and championships because of those two guys. It was a fun run with them, for sure.
Yes, I played with both Tom and Peyton, and they are pretty good golfers, too. They don’t play enough to be scratch golfers and to be really consistent, but they hit the ball a long way, and their naturally competitive sides help make them good golfers. It makes them bear down when the pressure is on and they have to make a shot or a putt.
NEGM: What was your relationship with Coach Belichick?
AV: I thought we got along pretty well. He’s a tough guy and a serious guy. But underneath that hard shell, he’s a pretty good dude. The coach-player relationship is obviously a professional one, but there is a much softer, nicer side to him—a personal side—that most of the media never gets to see because he won’t allow them to see it. His players know what I’m talking about. You play for Coach Belichick, you’re going to win a lot of games, and you’re going to be pretty successful. It was a pleasure playing for him and on his teams. That’s for sure.
NEGM: How did you get into golf? Handicap? Strengths? How far do you hit your drives? Five iron?
AV: I really didn’t start at a young age. Growing up, I was a multi-sport athlete. I played soccer all year long, football in the fall, wrestling in the winter, track in the spring, and baseball in the summer. I began to play golf my first year in the NFL and just fell in love with the game. That was the sport the players did when they had a day off or in the springtime. Living in New England gave us players a chance to play a lot of outstanding, challenging golf courses.
My handicap is 10. I shoot a lot of scores in the low 80’s.
I’m a decent irons guy. My driver is sometimes feast or famine. And I do have a competitive edge, too, and tend to play better when there’s something on the line. At one point I was right around 300 yards with my driver, but now I am more dependable off the tee when I don’t swing as hard, and I hit it around 270-280.
About 190 yards with my five iron.
NEGM: What do you enjoy with your membership at The Preserve?
AV: I’ll tell you what! That place is just absolutely amazing. It’s got a world-class golf course—that goes without saying. It’s beautiful and scenic and has striking elevation changes. The other amenities are equally exceptional with tennis, fly fishing, sporting clays, hiking trails, and swimming, to name a few. It’s located just off the highway and away from the hustle and bustle, but the seclusion in the country surroundings is ideal, which is something I cherish. My lifestyle is pretty busy and hectic during the season, and when it’s over, the first thing I want to do is spend time with my family in a private setting. I can’t wait to get away from it all at The Preserve.
NEGM: How about the upcoming The Preserve 18 par-3 tournament with its $1,000,000 for each ace?
AV: Pretty awesome, all right! Where else do you get an opportunity to win a $1,000,000 18 times in a row! The tournament is absolutely unique with every amateur shooting for that $1,000,000 prize!
NEGM: Your five favorite golf courses when you were a Patriot?
AV: The Country Club, TPC Boston, New Seabury, The Ridge Club, and Rhode Island Country Club.
NEGM: Who would be in your Dream Foursome?
AV: Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods, and John Daly
NEGM: What will be in your life after football?
AV: Football has blessed me with the ability to retire at a younger age than usual, and I am planning to devote almost all my free time to hanging out with Valeri and the children. It’s been a blessing to be in football as long as I have, and now I’m watching my children grow up. AJ is 13, Allison is 11, and Gabriel is 6. They’re all into sports, and I want to spend a lot of time watching them play, and I would like to coach them, too. As much as I love football, I still want to stay in the game in some capacity, maybe in broadcasting with the NFL Network.