Heading into this Sunday’s Super Bowl, the Patriots will be looking to rebound from a loss last year to the New York Giants. The Patriots will be attempting to shut down the Denver Broncos’ offense, led by future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning. As the Patriots look to start a new era in their history, watching a future Hall of Fame quarterback is a must.
If you knew the team around the Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri when he first broke into the league for the Indianapolis Colts, a couple of things might have surprised you.
The New England Patriots finished the 2001 season with the second-best record in the NFL, and the best record of any team against the spread. But the Patriots didn’t even make the playoffs, losing to the Tennessee Titans 21-17 and the Ravens 24-17 to finish the year. So much for what could have been.
5:05 P.M. EASTERN TIME.
Joe DeMartinoESPN Editor-in-Chief
- At ESPN since 2006
- Born in Massachusetts, graduated from Northwestern University.
Adam Vinatieri, arguably the hardest-hitting player in NFL history and the top scorer in the league, announced his retirement Wednesday after 24 seasons.
We could go on and on about Vinatieri’s best moments in the league, like his many winning kicks in the Super Bowl or the way he (improbably) chased down Herschel Walker and caught him on a fumble return. We’re focusing here on the fact that after 24 seasons, he was the last NFL player to start and retire in the 1990s. Until Wednesday, he was the only active player to make that tackle, as Walker retired at the end of the 1997 season.
Vinatieri excepted, three of the four major American sports have no one left who started before things like Y2K or smartphones became a reality. Here we pay tribute to the last of the faithful – and we wonder how long the last of the children of the 90s will live.
Adam Vinatieri, a four-time Super Bowl champion, made his debut with the Patriots in 1996. Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Professional debut: Vinatieri scored his first points with the Patriots in his NFL debut during the 1996 season. In New England’s 24-10 home loss against the Dolphins in Week 1. In September 1996, he scored and made the extra point.
Team partner: Before becoming one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks of all time, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, Vinatieri played in New England with the likes of Drew Bledsoe (1996-2001), Tedy Bruschi (1996-2005) and Hall of Fame player Curtis Martin (1996-97).
Vintage Match-Up: Before he became a Super Bowl hero, Vinatieri showed how reliable he could be in the 2001 playoffs. Even in a snowstorm. Trailing 13-10 for the Patriots in the final minute of their AFC Divisional Round game against the Raiders, Vinatieri kicked a 45-yard field goal through the snowy turf and gusty wind at Foxborough Stadium. The shot hit the right post and went wide, ending the game in extension. His 23-yard field goal with 6 minutes and 35 seconds left in overtime led the Patriots to the AFC title game and brought him national prominence.
When did he retire? Wednesday, 26. In May 2021, Vinatieri announced he was ending his career.
Vince Carter began his career with the Raptors, leading them to their first playoff appearance in 2000. Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
Professional debut: The 5th. In February 1999, Carter won his first NBA game. He scored 16 points on 5-of-11 shooting as the Raptors recorded a 103-92 victory over the Celtics.
Team partner: After the 1999-2000 games with the Raptors, the flank players were most likely out of the game. Not only did they have to keep up with Carter’s lightning-fast pace, but also that of the explosive Tracy McGrady, who turned 21 at the end of the 1999-2000 season. In 2001, Hall of Fame player Hakeem Olajuwon joined the Raptors for his final season in the NBA. He was 39 years old.
Vintage Match-Up: Vince Carter vs. Michael Jordan is a fantasy fan from North Carolina. The contest between the two most athletic Tar Heels (and players) in history actually took place four times between 2001 and 2003. Carter’s Raptors split those four games against Jordan’s Wizards, with the younger Carter winning the scoring battle each time. Carter, who averaged 40 minutes per game (11 more than Jordan), scored 23.5 points per game. Jordan scored 14 points per game, including just four in their last meeting in 2003, his final NBA season.
When did he retire? Carter played his last game on the 11th. March 2020, right before the NBA suspends the season because of COVID-19. The 25th. He officially retired in June 2020.
Bartolo Colon has played for 11 teams in 21 seasons. Jim Cozert/AP photo
Professional debut: On the fourth. In April 1997, Colon did not appear for the Cleveland Indians against the Anaheim Angels. He went five innings, gave up four earned runs and struck out four.
Team partner: Colon has played for 11 teams in his career. …. a lot of people. This list is only partial: Manny Ramirez, Jim Toome, Eagle Hershiser, David Ortiz, Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Jorge Posada and CC Sabathia. Colon also played with Julio Franco, another long player whose career began in 1982 and ended in 2007.
Vintage Match-Up: All you need to know about Bartolo Colon is that he hit a home run at the end of his career, and almost everyone decided that was the best thing ever.
When did he retire? Technically not, but even if Colon is still hungry for a comeback, his last game in the majors was at 22. September 2018.
Who are the last representatives of the decade that practically invented nostalgia?
Zdeno Chara, Washington Capitals
Joe Thornton, Toronto Maple Leafs
Patrick Marlo, San Jose Sharks
Marleau (left) and Joe Thornton, two of the top players in the 1997 draft, have been in the NHL much longer than expected. Matt Cohen/Icon Sportswire
Incredibly, three members of the 1990s NHL are still playing at a high level in the league. Thornton’s Maple Leafs team is still alive and in the playoffs, while Chara’s Capitals team was eliminated Sunday and Marleau’s Sharks team failed to make the playoffs. There are hockey players who can handle more than you might expect.
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