For any football fan younger than 24, this is the first NFL season they’ve witnessed without kicker Adam Vinatieri on a roster. The 47-year-old is watching from afar for the first time since 1996. This longevity on its own is enough to make Vinatieri a memorable presence in the NFL. Still, upon exploring his family history, the kicker’s longevity may make a bit more sense.
Adam Vinatieri’s unusual historic roots
A million jokes could be made about Vinatieri’s longevity dating back 150 years. But in some cases, the keys to his success could be loosely attributed to an event in the 1870s, according to the Missoulian. No, the ageless Vinatieri isn’t a time-traveler. Still, his family history can be directly connected to General George Custer’s last stand at Little Bighorn.
In Alfred Catalfo’s short film Bighorn, he posits that General Custer’s last stand at Little Bighorn indirectly helped the Patriots’ 2002 Super Bowl. While this may seem far-fetched, it’s not entirely out of the left-field.
Vinatieri’s great-great-grandfather, Felix Vinatieri, was Custer’s battlefield band leader. Custer enjoyed hearing Felix’s band as he marched into battle. However, in his tragic final battle, he kept the band away and lost his life soon after. Had Felix gone, he likely would’ve died with Custer. And Adam would not have been born generations later.
His great-great-grandfather, Felix Vinatieri
Every family has stories somewhat like this one. While it might not be as notable, everyone is the product of their ancestors’ decisions. Felix’s near brush with death helped show just how quickly some things can change. Adam spoke about his great-great-grandfather early on in his career.
“The story was passed down through the generations, and it was a point of pride,” said Vinatieri, according to BH Pioneer. “There’s a historical museum in the town where I grew up. They have some of grand-dad’s musical instruments and some of the music he composed … “I listen to that CD [of Felix’s music] and can’t quite get over the fact that it’s my grand-dad’s music.”
Felix lived and was able to have a family. While that family eventually gave birth to Adam, this isn’t the only special connection that the free-agent kicker has to a famous name.
A brush with Evel Knievel
Adam has another distant relative he can look to for inspiration. His third cousin, Evel Knievel, was the most famous daredevil of all time, reports Time. Years before the kicker was hitting game-winning field goals from obscene distances, Knievel garnered millions of viewers from around the world to watch him jump over buses, canyons, and more en-route to a lucrative career.
Knievel was a famed daredevil from the ’60s to his death in 2007. His death-defying stunts might put Vinatieri’s accomplishments to shame. Still, given the family makeup, it’s yet another strange chapter in a rich family history that helps explain how a young man out of rural America became one of the NFL’s iron men for nearly a quarter-century.
Adam Vinatieri looks back
If Vinatieri never returns to the field, which is highly likely at 48 years old, he will likely do so with the best kicking career of anybody in history. With 599 field goals at an 84% clip, Vinatieri is one of the leading scorers in the NFL’s long history. While he struggled in his final year with the Colts in 2019, he rarely had an off-year before that.
However, looking back at his family history, it’s clear to say that something in his genes makes him a fighter, just like Felix and Evel were at their crafts. Each of these men has a legacy that’s independent of one another, but putting them together on the same family tree makes for one of the fascinating looks at just how small the world can be regardless of geography and time.