INDIANAPOLIS, IN--Mike Vanderjagt is not your typical kicker. He never stands quietly in the background while his teammates get all the glory. He doesn’t politely keep his mouth shut, and he won’t shy away from calling out his teammates if the situation demands it. True, he’s ruffled his share of feathers, but the Colts trash-talking kicker sees himself as just one of the guys, and is blissfully unaware how close he is to getting his ass kicked.
“Believe me, I’m not the kind of kicker who’s timid and stands on the sidelines with my helmet in my hand,” said Vanderjagt. “I’m more like a linebacker in kicker’s clothing. Hell I’ll even go out there on kick returns and hit a few people. I’m not afraid to go out there and mix it up. That’s why I’m so universally respected around the league.”
Vanderjagt’s edgy demeanor hasn’t always endeared himself to his Colts teammates. Two years ago he was widely criticized for calling out quarterback and team captain Peyton Manning. The kicker admitted that he crossed a line, but said it’s all part of being a team.
“These guys are like my brothers,” he said. “We go to war everyday and get down in the trenches and battle. Sometimes emotions can run over and you can say something you don’t mean. That’s what happened when I called out Peyton. I just want to win so bad and I got a little frustrated. But Peyton knows me, and he understood why I did it. Just like I understood when he gave me that forearm shiver to the skull.”
Vanderjagt’s teammates have mixed feelings about his outgoing personality, but they are sure of one thing: He is one of the best kickers in the NFL.
“Mike is really a great kicker,” said linebacker Dwight Freeney. “The problem is he doesn’t know his place. I don’t care how good he is or how much trash he talks on the sidelines, he’s still only a kicker. He is not part of the team and he is not one of the guys. He’s a dork. If he wasn’t such a great kicker, I would’ve killed him a long time ago.”
Freeney was especially irritated at Vanderjagt Thursday night, after the kicker made some derogatory comments about the New England Patriots. Though the Patriots have beaten the Colts four straight times, Vandergagt commented that they are “clearly not a better team.”
“Man, we gotta play those guys again this year,” said Freeney. “You don’t want to give them any bulletin board material. We’re the ones who gotta go out there on the field and tangle with these bastards. They certainly don’t need any more motivation. But Mike likes to think he’s a tough, intimidating guy. What a joke that is. How tough can he be? He’s from Canada.”
After that incident, Freeney said that some teammates were so angry they had to be held back from attacking and killing Vanderjagt.
“Our tight end, Marcus Pollard, was just about ready to give him a pretty bad beat down,” said Freeney. “And so were a few of our offensive lineman. They had just played a hard, physical game and were a little upset that we lost on a missed field goal. So when they heard Mike shooting his mouth off, they went a little nuts. A bunch of us had to get in the way to protect him. But he had no idea. He had his back turned talking to a reporter the whole time. Afterward, he went up to Marcus and said ‘Hang in there, dog. We’ll get 'em next time.’ Marcus was so mad his face turned red, even though he’s a black man.”
According to team sources, Vanderjagt will be cut from the team as soon as his talent shows signs of slipping. As hated as he is by all that know him, cutting a kicker coming off a perfect season is not an option that the team wants to consider. So Vandergagt is safe—for now.
“I hate the son of a bitch. I hate him, I hate him, I hate him,” said normally mild-mannered Tony Dungy. “I’m usually a pretty patient and calm person, but Mike really gets on my nerves. Every time he opens his mouth I fly into a rage. You should see me. Just the other day I got so mad that I slammed my office door shut pretty hard. Of course I immediately enrolled in an anger management course afterwards.”
Even on the field, the kicker can be an annoyance. During a preseason game an opposing kick returner fumbled Vandergagt’s kickoff and the ball was scooped up by the Colts’ Mike Doss. As he began to run down the field, Vanderjagt signaled for Doss to get behind him and “follow his block.”
“I pick the ball up off the ground, and who do I see standing over me? Fucking Vandergagt of all people,” said Doss. “He had this goofy look on his face and said ‘Get behind me! I’m knockin some people down!’ Well, I started running and Mike made an attempt to block a guy. At least I think he was trying to block him. If I didn’t know better, I might’ve thought he was trying to wrap his arms around his waist and blow him. Hell, maybe he was. He is a kicker.”
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