If a piece of cloth could tell a story, Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri’s No. 8 Rapid City Central jersey would have quite the tale.
It starts in 1991, after Vinatieri finished his storied career as the Cobblers' star kicker. After graduating from Central that year, his jersey was stuffed into a tattered, old box along with other old football uniforms that were bound for the trash.
Then, Steve Svendsen stepped in.
Svendsen coached the Cobblers from 1999 to 2007 and during his time in Rapid City, the Central student section would have "throwback nights" where students would wear old jerseys during important basketball or football games.
One year, ahead of a basketball game against crosstown rival Rapid City Stevens, Svendsen’s two daughters asked their father if they could also have an old jersey. What happened next was pure luck.
Greg McNabb, a coach on Svendsen’s staff and former teammate of Vinatieri’s at Central, pointed out that one of his daughters was wearing a jersey that once belonged to the Hall of Fame kicker.
“All those old jerseys were getting ready to be thrown away so we just kind of held onto it and kept it," Svendsen said. "I had him sign it a couple of years later. I held on to it for a few years and thought I could maybe sell it, but I thought, 'Well, that’s probably not the right thing to do.’
"So I decided one day I was going to give it back to him."
Svendsen now coaches at Caney Creek High School in Conroe, Texas, about 40 miles north of Houston. On Nov. 5, Vinatieri’s Colts were playing the Houston Texans, and Svendsen went to the game with the mission of giving the Rapid City native his old high school jersey.
“I thought that the jersey belonged to him and his family," Svendsen said. "I had an opportunity to see him at the Texans game when they played here last time, and I thought, ‘He needs to have that thing.’ I was going to hold onto it until he got into the Hall of Fame, but I thought, ‘You know what, give it to him now before anything else goes on.
“When I first gave it to him, he was laughing right away and he goes, ‘Are you sure you want to give that back to me?’ He’s gracious enough to take time for people when he’s getting ready for a football game. I thought that was my only opportunity.”
The day became more special, as Vinatieri was only one point away from moving into second place on the NFL’s all-time points list. He would score eight points that day, passing Gary Anderson with his 2,435th point.
Vinatieri currently sits at 2,457 points, only 87 away from tying Hall of Famer and longtime New Orleans Saints kicker Morten Andersen for the No. 1 spot.
Svendsen said he didn’t know it was going to be such a historic day.
“I knew he was getting close, but I didn’t realize he was only a point away until they announced it during the game. I thought, 'That’s great timing,’” he said. “One thing that Adam does not take for granted is where he came from. He’s a reflection of Rapid City and the community there, and I think he does a great job representing the state of South Dakota.
"I’ve seen him take time to talk to people, and not a lot of NFL guys do that. That just tells you that he does not forget where he came from. I think he’s very classy in that way.”
The gesture meant a lot to Vinatieri, who told the Journal in a phone interview that he was surprised and touched by the gift.
"Most of the time people want signatures for their stuff, but for him to give me a gift, a jersey of mine, was really cool for a number of reasons,” Vinatieri said. “It brought me back my roots, where I came from. I mean, we’re talking 25 or 30 years ago that I had a Central Cobbler jersey on, so that was a special moment, and it was really cool that he did that and thought of me like that.
"That was a special time for me.”