The reason guns dominated the news over the weekend was because two dead people were famous football players. Will Smith and Joe McKnight were both killed, eight months apart, after road rage incidents in which the shooters claimed self-defense.

But as he closes hard on his 44th birthday later this month, Vinatieri says the coach who might have been his biggest difference-maker is a teacher, Marcy Farrand, who spent 30 years at Wilson Elementary in Rapid City, South Dakota, in the shadow of the Black Hills. Young Adam had a learning disability — he had trouble reading and spelling, and all these years later he can still hear an adult voice calling out, “Hey, everybody, it’s time for reading. Oh, Adam, you’re going to go to this other classroom.”

Game Mens Shane Doan Jersey Vinatieri winces over the memory. “I hated that,” he said. “It drove me crazy.” He caught a break when he landed in Farrand’s special-ed classes in fourth, fifth and sixth grades. “Mostly what I did with all kids,” Farrand says, “is we found what they were good at and we talked about it, and then talked about how to use that to help them with things they struggled with.”

Farrand recalls Adam’s standing among younger special-ed students as a kind and engaging leader they tried to emulate. Adam would bring in cards to Farrand thanking her for her patience and time. He would later end up in science classes taught by Farrand’s husband, Mark, at Rapid City’s Central High School, where Adam was an honor student and star athlete who earned admission to West Point.

Authentic Youth J. R. Sweezy Jersey “I had great grades,” Vinatieri says. “Why? Because I studied twice as long and twice as hard as everybody else. … I had to learn [in elementary school] that you just out-effort everybody else and you’re going to be successful. And I think, as silly as that sounds at that early of an age, that helped develop me into who I was.”