Adam Vinatieri’s Best Worst Thing
The QJO Initiative Crew spent a few days at four-time Super Bowl Champ Adam Vinatieri’s Record Breaking Ranch in Fulton, Missouri. Adam talked to us about his life growing up, the challenges he has faced and the amazing career he has had in the NFL (Watch Full Episode)
What would you say was the best, worst thing that ever happened, meaning was the worst thing at the time you think could have ever occurred, like you thought it was life shattering, but ended up, in retrospect, the best thing that could have happened?
I hit the crossroads in my life, 10 or 11 years old, because most people do in their twenties, thirties, forties, whatever. But when I was a young kid in elementary school, I had a tough time reading, couldn’t spell to save my life. Still can’t spell. Thank God for spell check. But I was struggling a little bit in school. I was really good math, sciences and all that stuff, but I just, I was struggling a little bit, so they tested me, and all that stuff. Found out that I just had some sort of a learning disability, as far as that’s concerned. I remember when I was in fourth, fifth grade… Fifth grade is when they started moving me out of this class.
And, “Hey, we’re going to send you down the hall to this other classroom.” I just remember thinking to myself that man, all these kids in here just think I’m some dummy, that kind of stuff. But my all time favorite teacher, God bless her, she’s a saint, Nancy [inaudible 00:02:26] is her name. She had a small class of kids that needed a little extra help. Best learning experience that I ever had was from her. She sat me down and she said, “Here’s the deal. It’s going to be harder for you. It’s going to take you longer. It’s going to take you more effort, but you can achieve anything you want to. You’re just going to have to work harder.” So I sat there and I said… It’s probably the competitive nature that I have, and I have an older brother that we always competed in sports and stuff, and so I was always trying to be as good as him, be better than him, you know?
So I remember, at that point, just going, “Hey, you know what? I’m not going to let these other people in the other classroom think that. I’m going to work harder. I’m going to do better. I’m going to get good grades.” I graduated high school, honors and 4.1 some GPA because I took some other classes. Got accepted to the military academies, did a bunch of… Graduated college with an exercise physiology degree, and in all my pre-med prerequisites, and then a chemistry minor, and all that stuff because I wanted to go to medical school. Football didn’t work out for me. So the best worst thing made it a hell of a lot harder for me, but I think it taught me a good work ethic.
So I think that helped me early to realize, I still played my sports and all that stuff, but when I came home from practice, or soccer practice, or whatever, eat dinner, straight upstairs, and my mom got to a point where she’s like, “I’m worried about the fact that he’s not-
“You don’t play that long. You don’t get to pick your time when you’re done
and gone, so for me now it’s pretty good. I’m very content.”
Not living a normal boy life.
Correct, but that helped me so much when I went to college, and I’m studying to try to get good grades. I’m not going out on Friday nights, or Saturday after a football game, doing the normal partying thing. Don’t get me wrong, I had tons of fun in college, and had good friends, and girlfriends and so I lived a normal college lifestyle, but I learned my priorities earlier, and I studied, worked my ass off, and I honestly think that the lessons I learned in fifth, sixth, seventh grade still carry over to you now. That if you want something, you work your ass off for it. Don’t let anybody tell you you can’t do it, because you can.
The struggle was real for me. I remember, I moved to Virginia right after college, trying to get my shot in the league. Had a contract from the Canadian Football League that I decided not to take, because I wanted to play in the NFL on the Dallas Cowboys, of all teams. Steve Hoffman was their special teams coach, and he called me at college and said, “Hey, listen. We’re not going to draft a kicker, but we’re going to sign you. We want you to be on our team.” Whatever, whatever. Draft day comes and goes. A couple of days after, crickets. Nothing. So anyway, I meet a kicking coach in Virginia. I go and I spend this year working out, trying to try to fine tune of my skills, all that stuff.
So I moved down there, and pack up my truck. Everything I own in that thing. I had a little bit of money left over, but not a lot. Moved down there first, last months rent. Getting some food for the refrigerator. I remember looking at my checking account going, “I got like $17 and that’s all I got.” Now, my parents would’ve helped me if I would have asked them. I didn’t want to ask if I didn’t have to, right? And I remember that it was… At one point, I remember the struggle was real, but when I realized… I got a job, I started working and I realized at that point, hey, I could make this work. I’m good. I don’t need anybody’s help. Like, like don’t get me wrong, I needed help, but when I realized that I was capable of surviving, it was a good feeling because that was the first time, really being on your own after college, the struggle is real.
I ran down Herschel Walker on a kickoff. That was pretty amazing. I don’t know how that happened. Got in-
What year was that?
My rookie year, ’96.
Tipped off, he catches it at the goal line, breaks through the line. Oh, gone. I’m in the middle of the field, and I really didn’t have an angle at all, but I turned, and just started running. And to my surprise, every 10 yards, I’d gain a foot. Maybe 10 yards, I’d gained another foot, and finally got to the point where, about on 25, 30 yard line, whatever it was, I was close enough, and I dived and I tackle him right on the sideline. He goes and throws the ball down, and turns around and looks, and I guarantee he didn’t expect to see number four, the kicker with the turf shoe on, and one foot in a normal shoe. He’s like, “No way did this guy just tackle me,” right?
It was funny because Bill Parcells was our head coach at the time, and I remember he came up to me and he goes, “Hey, that’s one of the best plays I’ve ever seen in my career.” He said, “The guys will treat you differently now.” And I didn’t know what that meant, like he’s not just a kicker. He’s a football player, like family. I care as much as anybody else does on this team. I’m not going to let this get to the end zone, kind of thing. But it’s pretty crazy.
I’ve always said, the wins in football bring you a certain amount of joy, but the losses, or the bad plays, or the miss kicks, that cause us to lose gets me a lot more negative anguish. The losses piss me off more than the wins make me happy. I don’t think that was the way it was, initially, but that’s the way it is toward the end of my career. And so maybe that holds something to it, too. Don’t get me wrong, my greatest moments in my life, besides the birth of my children, was that first field goal, watching that ball go through the upright. We win and I’m like, “Oh my God, this is my whole professional career, the whole world just saw that. Wow.” And everything I’ve done in my life, to this moment, is for that moment… Sailed through the uprights. I’m like, “Oh my gosh. That was so…”
I mean, there’s been some fun moments, and I guess that shows a very happy, content life, because I don’t know if I’d want to change a lot, to be honest with you. Love my wife. My kids are fantastic. My career has been great. The people that go, “Oh, I wish I would’ve done this differently,” and they’ve got regrets. I don’t really have a lot of regrets, to be honest with you. I’ve been a part of six Super Bowl teams, four wins, and two losses, and lots of points, and lots of records, and all that stuff and I don’t have any regrets. It feels… Most of the time, you can’t… You don’t play that long. You don’t get to pick your time when you’re done and gone, so for me now it’s pretty good. I’m very content.
Note: To find out more about Adam’s Ranch in Missouri visit: www.recordbreakingranch.com
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