Next special-teamer a best bet for Canton? Vinatieri

Adam Vinatieri photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts

The inductions of punter Ray Guy and kicker Morten Andersen in the last four years has bumped the number of pure kicking specialists enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame to three. Does that mean the door has been cracked for other special-teamers?

If so, that’s good news for Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri. We asked our listeners and readers in our weekly Talk of Fame Network poll who will be the next special teamer enshrined in Canton, and Vinatieri won with 52 percent of the vote.

Special-teams coverage ace Steve Tasker of the Buffalo Bills finished second with 17 percent of the vote followed by kick returner Billy “White Shoes” Johnson at 13 percent and placekicker Gary Anderson at 12 percent apiece.

The three hosts of the Talk of Fame Network – Ron Borges, Rick Gosselin and Clark Judge – were split. Borges and Judge both voted for Vinatieri while Gosselin cast his ballot for Johnson.

“Vinatieri made some of the biggest kicks in his generation to win Super Bowls and big playoff games,” Borges said, “and looks like he intends to play longer than Tom Brady.”

Frankly, he already has. Vinatieri is 44, Brady 40. Still active with the Colts, Vinatieri is in his 22nd NFL season and ranks third all-time with his 2,378 points. He also ranks third in career field goals (530) and sixth in career games (322).

Vinatieri owns four Super Bowl rings (three from the Patriots, one from the Colts) and set an NFL record by converting 44 consecutive field goals. He was voted to the 2000 NFL all-decade team. But after he retires – whenever that is – he’ll have a five-year wait before he becomes eligible for Canton.

“Some guys will tell you he was the best kicker of all time,” Judge said. “I don’t know about that. But I do know that he checked all the boxes — championships, Al-Pro teams, Pro-Bowl nominations, all-decade — plus he made one of the most memorable field goals in league history. Voters won’t forget when his name comes up.”

Gosselin went with the lone return specialist named to the NFL’s 75th anniversary team.

“There are 49 players voted to that team,” Gosselin said, “and White Shoes is the only one still without a Hall of Fame bust. He’s never even been discussed as a finalist. His career deserves far greater consideration than it’s received thus far.”

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