Adam Vinatieri, New England Patriots Kicker
by Doug Greengard
Even coming out of a small school like South Dakota State University, Adam Vinatieri had big dreams. After completing a successful collegiate career as the school's place-kicker where he set the all-time scoring record and was recognized as a first team all-conference selection for a third time, Vinatieri had hopes of continuing his craft in the NFL. Others he came in contact with were not as positive. "If I had a dollar for every time someone told me I wasn't going to make it back before I finally did," said Vinatieri. "I just basically said, 'David beat Goliath' and I pointed out all the times in the Bible where people with faith in Christ overcame huge adversities and overwhelming odds."
That spring of 1996 was a pivotal time in Vinatieri's life. Overlooked in the NFL draft and anxious about his football future, Vinatieri pressed in to God. NFL teams were contacting him, but none were inviting him to training camp. "I remember the day I went into the church and sat down at the altar and prayed, saying 'Lord, I need your help,'" said Vinatieri.
What God did was give Vinatieri more than the peace he was seeking. God also brought people into his life who were inspirational and proved to be instrumental in helping the young kicker make it to the next level. While the NFL was his desire, Vinatieri was thankful for an immediate opportunity to play in Europe, kicking footballs for the World League's Amsterdam Admirals.
It didn't take long for NFL teams to take notice and just months later, the New England Patriots signed Vinatieri to a free-agent contract. It's a decision the Patriots have never regretted. Vinatieri had the fourth most proficient start to a NFL career in the history of the game. In a span of two years, he successfully booted 25 consecutive field goals-just six short of a NFL record.
One thing Vinatieri knows is that he's never alone, especially when the pressure is really on. "What soothes me when I go out to try to kick a game-winning field goal is I know He's standing right next to me and He's helping me," said Vinatieri. "A lot of times you feel like you're on an island as a kicker, but it's always nice to know there's somebody there that's with me one hundred percent of the way."
Not everything has gone exactly the way Vinatieri would like. There have been missed field goals-even some that have kept his team from winning games. But Vinatieri knows the peace of having a friend in Jesus. "You always have some ups and downs in your life," he said. "But if you know he'll always be there to help you, it will be all right."
Vinatieri is doing better than just all right. The way God sees it; he's splitting the uprights each time.
Doug Greengard is the host/producer of the Christian Sports Minute, a radio feature that airs on stations nationwide. Visit the website at www.christiansportsminute.com