Former NFL kicker Mike Vanderjagt has been suspended from his middle school coaching job after he was accused of grabbing and screaming at a student, apparently because the child taunted Vanderjagt over his missed field goal in the Colts’ loss to the Steelers in the 2005 playoffs.
The Naples News reports that Vanderjagt is a part-time coach at a middle school in Marco Island, Florida, but that he was suspended from that position when the school’s dean of students called the police to say that Vanderjagt had been witnessed grabbing a student by the throat. According to the police report, a student was taunting Vanderjagt by yelling “wide left, wide left,” and Vanderjagt walked up to him, grabbed him by the throat and started cursing at him. Both the student involved (who apparently didn’t realize that Vanderjagt’s miss against the Steelers was actually wide right) and another student who witnessed the incident told police the same story.
That sounds a bit like what got Bobby Knight fired from a much higher-profile coaching job, and it’s unsurprising that Vanderjagt’s side of the story is similar to Knight’s story when he got fired at Indiana: Knight said he was simply trying to teach a young man to respect his elders, and Vanderjagt said that he decided he had had enough after students had been taunting him about missed field goals for months.
Vanderjagt said he did nothing more than put his hand on the child’s shoulder at the base of his neck to hold him in place while talking to him, and he had no intention of hurting or threatening the student. Police forwarded their report to the state’s attorney’s office, which decided not to press charges. It will be up to the principal to decide when or if Vanderjagt is reinstated to coaching.
Vanderjagt spent eight years in Indianapolis and had some very good seasons but is remembered by many for that miss against the Steelers, which was his last kick with the Colts before spending one final NFL season with the Cowboys. He’s also remembered for being famously roasted by Peyton Manning, who called him a “liquored-up” “idiot kicker.” The always reliable Wikipedia says that Vanderjagt is currently working as a pizza delivery man.