When Adam Vinatieri kicked the game-winning field goal in Super Bowl XXXVI, Evan McPherson was just two years old. And yet that kick, and Vinatieri’s run with the New England Patriots in general, is still a source of inspiration for McPherson.
On Sunday, the 22-year-old will try to do his best Vinatieri impression by becoming a Super Bowl winner himself. In order to accomplish that goal, he and the Cincinnati Bengals will have to get the better of the same team New England beat 20 years ago.
Vinatieri and the Patriots bested the Rams when they were still based in St. Louis. The future Hall of Famer kicked the game-winner form 48 yards out as time expired in the fourth quarter, lifting New England to a 20-17 victory and the NFL mountaintop for the first time in franchise history.
McPherson and the Bengals, meanwhile, will take on the Los Angeles-based Rams this Sunday in Super Bowl LVI. On media day ahead of the big game, the rookie spoke about Vinatieri’s impact on his career.
“Adam is definitely a guy I have looked up to and watched a lot of videos on,” McPherson said on Monday. “Growing up as a kid — and shoot, still today — I love to watch his run with the Patriots when he is kicking game-winners in the Super Bowl. I think that is every kid’s dream, to kick a game-winner in the Super Bowl.”
Vinatieri did it not once but twice. Two years after the Rams game in February 2002, he kicked the game-winning field goal to help the Patriots beat the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII. The following year, a fourth-quarter field goal by Vinatieri proved to be the difference in beating the Philadelphia Eagles to win a third title in four years.
He later earned another championship with the Indianapolis Colts, continuing to play in the NFL until his retirement last year.
“He has done a lot for me, even not knowing me,” said McPherson about the 49-year-old. “Just to see someone else make those kicks, it kind of gives you the confidence to make them. It’s super weird and I don’t know how to explain it, but I love watching him go out there and hit the only walk-off, game-winning kick in Super Bowl history. It’s super cool.
“If we get the opportunity to do that I hope we come through with it. I love Adam and everything he did in his career.”
McPherson’s team knows that it can feel confident in him. He has made all 12 of his field goal attempts so far in the postseason, including the game-winner in overtime versus the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game.
Making big kicks in the playoffs has helped Vinatieri build a Hall of Fame-caliber résumé. Whether it will do the same for McPherson remains to be seen, but he can at least accomplish something this week that the Patriots legend did as well: beat the Rams on the game’s biggest stage.