Editor’s note: This is the last in a series of stories on the 2011 inductees to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in Natchitoches. The induction ceremony is Saturday.
Morten Andersen distinguished himself for 25 NFL seasons, arguably kicking a football between two unforgiving goal posts better than anyone who has played the game.
Longtime NFL observers believe the left-footer is destined to land in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and will perhaps be a first-ballot entrant with the Class of 2012 on the eve of Super Bowl XLVII, which is set for Feb. 3, 2013, in New Orleans.
According to former Saints coach Jim Mora,?who coached Andersen in New Orleans from 1982 through 1994, the “Great Dane’’ is a shoo-in for Canton.
“If you follow football at all, you’ve got to marvel at the career Morten has had,” Mora said. “Good kickers can make the 50-yarders in practice and in pregame warm-ups, but the great kickers are the ones who can put it through the uprights with the game on the line.
“I can remember so many times standing on the sidelines when the game was on the line, no matter what the distance, and he would go out there with a great deal of confidence - with ice water in his veins - and he would stick it through the uprights.”
That, Mora said, is the big difference between Andersen and other NFL kickers.
“Not only should Morten Andersen go down as the greatest kicker in NFL history, but he should go down as one of the great players in National Football League history,” Mora added. “I really believe that.’’
Mora is not alone in his belief.
“Sooner or later, another specialist is going to go in,” said Andersen, who finished his career as the Saints’ and NFL’s all-time leader with 1,318 and 2,544 points, respectively. “Whether it’s me or Gary Anderson or Nick Lowery or Ray Guy, I don’t know.
“There are so many other great players out there who have been waiting for years and years and years,” he said. “Based on the body of work, I think I belong. But there are other guys that belong, too.”
Time will tell if Andersen makes the cut for Canton, Ohio.
Meantime, he has a few stops along the way.
The first came on Nov. 6, 2009, when he was unanimously inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame. The second comes when he will take his rightful place in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday in Natchitoches.
Two down, one to go.
“This is a tremendous honor,’’ Andersen said of his inclusion with the Class of 2011. “I am very humble today. Today my heart is smiling, and today my spirit soars.
“This means a lot to be able to come in now in an environment when the Saints are so successful, and everybody is so upbeat and positive about the football team.’’
Andersen, a native of Denmark, finished his storied career with the Atlanta Falcons (1995-00, 2006-07), New York Giants (2001), Kansas City Chiefs (2002-03) and Minnesota Vikings (2004).
The seven-time Pro Bowl player is a member of the NFL’s “All-Decade’’ team for the 1980s and 1990s and the Walter Camp All-Century team for college football for his career at Michigan State.
If elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Andersen said he’d proudly represent each of the five teams he represented during his NFL career.
But the feeling is New Orleans still holds a special place in his heart, despite being dumped unceremoniously by the Saints organization on the eve of training camp in 1995.
Sixteen years later, the wound has scarred over and the good far outweighs the bad.
“One of the reasons that my relationship was great with New Orleanians was that I immersed myself in the culture there and the city, and I became a New Orleanian,” Andersen once said.
“Even though I’m still a Danish citizen, I became part of the fabric of the city and I got involved in community service. I was a visible Saint. I wasn’t a guy who went home afterward. I liked to party. I was single back then and I had a good time there and New Orleans likes to party.”
Though Andersen claims to remember nearly every single kick, the makes and misses, of all his Saints memories, he cited two kicks that remain in the forefront.
The first was on Oct. 27, 1991, when he booted a 60-yard field goal just before halftime in a 20-17 loss to the Chicago Bears.
“It was a sound unlike any kick I’ve ever hit,” Andersen said. “You wish you could can that thing and make it part of you always, but it sounded like a cannon going off.
“Then, of course, the roar in the crowd and my beating heart afterward was pretty intense as well.”
On Oct. 9, 1983, his 35-yarder gave the Saints a 19-17 victory over the hated Falcons.
“It’s two seconds to go and (Kenny) Stabler calls time out,” Andersen said. “I’m coming on the field and I’m nervous and I’m 23 years old and (Stabler) is 38 and in maybe his last year, and he goes, ?Hey Morten, let’s go home.’
“It calmed me right down and I kicked the 35-yarder from the left hash and we went home, and it was a great experience.”
If given more time to reflect, Andersen probably could recall numerous occasions when he kicked his opponents where it hurt the most - right between the goal posts.