Great Dane nickname fitting for Morten Andersen on Hall of Fame Induction night

Morten Andersen

The jacket was pure gold and it fit perfectly.

As a fourth-round draft pick out of Michigan State, Morten Andersen was pure gold and fit perfectly with the New Orleans Saints in the black and gold.

It was a dark, black day when the Saints parted ways with Andersen after the 1994 season. The colossal mistake has played out publicly ever since and Jim Mora has spent the last decade or more expressing his reaction of regret and remorse, realizing the magnitude of what New Orleans did at the time.

Andersen kicked another 14 years in the NFL for Atlanta, the New York Giants, Kansas City Chiefs and the Minnesota Vikings, reaching a Super Bowl with the Falcons and still living in the Atlanta area. However, Saturday night at his induction in Canton, Ohio into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he reserved his most emotional praise and special showing of affection for the Crescent City.

“I have a deep love for the city of New Orleans and its football team,” Andersen said. “Our connections together run deep and I believe their fans are the most loyal and passionate anywhere. I have great admiration for the spirit and passion of the people of New Orleans. I will always be a part of New Orleans and always a Saint.”

Simply put, Andersen is the greatest kicker in the history of the NFL, the league’s all-time leading scorer. His longevity (26 years) is unparalleled. He was a seven time Pro Bowl participant and six time All-Pro at a position where only one player is chosen.

It all began when Andersen, an exchange student from Denmark, was at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis in 1977. He decided to try out for the team as a kicker.

“The whole team watched me try out,” Andersen said. “They didn’t expect much. The feeling was mutual.”

Andersen, who was not familiar with American football but with the sport internationally known as football was surprised that the ball he was asked to kick was not round. Still, he went through with putting his left foot into the pigskin. The legend was born.

“The ball flew high and through those white things,” Andersen said. “And I looked over to my teammates, I think they liked what they saw and suddenly I had 80 new friends, just like that. Welcome to America!”

The love affair began. Andersen became a brilliant kicker at Michigan State and the New Orleans Saints rolled the dice by investing a fourth-round draft pick in The Great Dane.

Morten Andersen, Tommy BarnhardtHis NFL career began auspiciously, as he twisted his ankle on his very first kickoff in his first game, in the Louisiana Superdome against the St. Louis Cardinals on Sept. 12, 1982. He missed eight weeks and almost immediately, Saints fans and observers groaned and began comparing Andersen to the horrendous decision the Saints made to draft Russell Erxleben in the first-round of the 1979 draft.

While Erxleben was a bust, Andersen soon earned the trust of Bum Phillips, his teammates and wary Saints fans who became completely enamored of the new kicker, who earned the nickname “Mr. Automatic.”

Andersen was a trend-setter, perhaps the first of the “power” kickers that are so prevalent today. Andersen was not the ultimate technician. He pounded the ball, wedge-style, and it had a distinctive sound. When he hit the ball squarely, he blasted touchbacks and 40 field goals of 50 yards or more. His 103 game-winners and 30 game ending field goals speak to the dependable, clutch nature of his performances.

Andersen was inducted into The Saints Hall of Fame in 2009. He was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 2011, the Allstate Sugar Bowl Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame in 2013 and was inducted into the Saints Ring of Honor in 2015.

As a guest on my radio show on WGSO, Andersen again gushed about his time in The Big Easy.

“It is quite humbling to think about what happened with my time in New Orleans,” Andersen said. “We brought success to the Saints, made the playoffs, created incredible fan support and I met my wife when I was there. While my other experiences in the league were superb, that will always be the most special time in my career. Needless to say, I never wanted to leave but I did not have that choice.”

It was only appropriate that the induction came at the stadium now named after Saints owner Tom Benson, whom he praised, along with Gayle Benson, and former Saints teammates Brian Hansen and Bobby Hebert, among others. He reserved perhaps his deepest thanks and praise for his first head coach with the Saints.

“I owe Bum Phillips a huge tip of the 10-gallon hat,” Andersen said. “He had patience with me when I started my NFL career in New Orleans and he stuck with me until we got it right.”

Andersen is the first native of Denmark to be inducted into the hallowed Hall in Canton.

“My story isn’t only about my love for the country of Denmark and its people, but also my deep appreciation and respect for what I discovered here in the United States of America,” Andersen said. “I truly have lived the American dream.”

Andersen met his wife, Jennifer, when he owned a restaurant appropriately named Champions at The Lakeside Mall in Metairie, where I hosted many radio shows. Morten was always available, helpful and cheerful. Though our mutual friend and his Saints teammate Rickey Jackson, who attended the Saturday induction in Canton, was affectionately known as “City Champ,” Andersen was truly a champion in his own right.

While Jan Stenerud, Andersen’s role model and pseudo idol, was the first kicker to make it into the Hall of Fame and Andersen is the second, it is Andersen who is the role model for all other kickers who make it to NFL. Simply put, he is the best. When Andersen’s name comes up in conversation or when he appears, it will be commonplace moving forward for all who observe him to say, “there goes Morten Andersen, the best there ever was in this game.”

Roy Hobbs would be proud. Despite coming from abroad, Andersen was the best. He was a natural.

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