In the entryway of a small Italian restaurant in the back of a shopping plaza, the leading scorer in Colts history paces. He looks out through the front door and checks his BlackBerry. It’s 7 p.m. on a fall Monday. He came here tonight, to the restaurant he’s owned for five years, to teach some football to the locals. He wants to talk about everything he learned in nine years in the league. “Bring a mate!” say the flyers on the door. “First drink free!” His name is known by millions. He played with some of the best ever, and some of the best ever looked to him to win games for them. More often than not, he did. But tonight, nobody wants to learn football from him. Nobody’s coming.
So Mike Vanderjagt heads to the back of the restaurant.
When he left football, three years ago, he was the most accurate professional kicker to ever play his position. Jan Stenerud, now in the Hall of Fame, made 66.8 per cent of his tries. Vanderjagt made 86.5. Stenerud missed 47 kicks from 50 yards or longer; Vanderjagt missed 36 field goals in his entire career. He’s 40 now, and although that’s old for pretty much any athlete, it’s not old for a kicker. John Carney is still active at 46. Morten Anderson kicked until 47. And here’s Vanderjagt, in game shape, planning to go out to a high school field the next day to boot a few. “I should be the kicker for the New Orleans Saints,” he says, sipping a Pepsi. Vanderjagt was always blustery, but usually he was right. And let’s face it: lots of NFL teams have kickers worse than Vanderjagt.
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