Four-time Super Bowl champion Adam Vinatieri, 43, certainly knows a thing or two about big games.
The 20-year veteran kicker holds the NFL record for career postseason points scored (234) and has delivered time and again in high-pressure, high-profile situations. Vinatieri split the uprights on a 48-yard field goal to win Super Bowl XXXVI. Two years later, he won another Super Bowl by kicking a 41-yarder. The infamous “Tuck Rule” game? Won on a field goal by you-know-who.
As it turns out, Vinatieri isn’t just an expert on wild big games; he also knows all about big game in the wild.
“I’ve hunted all over the world,” he says. “Alaska, the Arctic, South America, New Zealand. I’ve chased everything from whitetail deer to grizzly bears. I love football, but hunting is in my blood.”
Not surprising, considering he grew up in rural South Dakota.
“My dad took me hunting for pheasants when I was 4 or 5 years old,” he says. “We were always out with uncles and cousins. It was definitely a family affair.”
Vinatieri has passed down the love of the outdoors to his kids, too.
“When I can, I try to steal an afternoon and take my 12-year-old son (A.J.) out,” he says. “He absolutely loves it. I’ve tried bringing my 5-year-old (Gabe) along, but it’s a little tough to keep a 5-year-old quiet. And my daughter (Allison) has tried hunting a few times. But honestly, she’d rather be riding horses.”
Today, Vinatieri still craves all types of outdoor activities — rifle and bow hunting, fishing, you name it. And while he loves the thrill of the chase, being outdoors gives the NFL’s oldest active player a chance to decompress.
“My job is stressful,” says Vinatieri, who lives in Carmel, Ind., just north of Indianapolis. “Every time I’m out there kicking it’s some degree of pressure. So when the season’s over, I really enjoy getting away from the city. The quiet, the calm, watching the sunrise, everything about it keeps me grounded.”
From deer to musk ox, gazelle to bison, Vinatieri has amassed quite a hunting résumé. (And yes, he does eat most of what he catches.) But of course, like all of us, he’s still trying to accomplish ambitious “bucket list” goals.
“I’d love to get to Russia and hunt,” he says. “Animal-wise, the Lord Derby (the world’s largest eland antelope, which can weigh over 2,000 pounds) in Africa is definitely something I have my sights set on.”
Judging by Vinatieri’s track record of success, there’s a good chance he adds a few more off-field prizes to his laundry list of on-field achievements. The undrafted South Dakota State product has raised the Vince Lombardi Trophy following Super Bowl wins with Tom Brady (three times) and Peyton Manning (once). He’s also the only player to ever score 1,000 points with two different teams — playing 10 years apiece with the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts, respectively.
“I’ve been fortunate to be a part of some great teams,” he says. “Sometimes life is about being in the right place at the right time.”
He says that if he could, he’d hunt 250 days a year. So, will he be hunting full-time when he retires?
“In a perfect world, I’d love to have my own TV show. I’ve been on a couple of other hunting shows and had a great time. I think it’d be awesome to travel the world, hunt and have it filmed.”
In the end, Vinatieri says hunting is more about the experience than the final result.
“Having a chance to spend time with family, the people I care about, building memories,” he says. “That’s the thing I love the most.”
by Lane Strauss