Morten Andersen finally kicked down the door to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his fifth year of eligibility.
The organizers in Canton, Ohio, might want to think about bringing him back next year as the emcee.
The NFL’s all-time leading scorer drew huge laughs from the crowd several times during his induction speech Saturday night, most of them coming while he described his first encounter with the sport of American football when he was encouraged to try kicking as a foreign-exchange student from Denmark at Indianapolis’ Ben Davis High School.
“The defining moment of my life came ... when I trotted onto the field wearing a purple jersey No. 46, shoulder pads meant for a linebacker and a helmet that could hold more than one large box of movie popcorn,” said Andersen, who recalled arguing that he didn’t need any of that stuff to kick a ball and that he couldn’t wait to “get this over with so I can go find a soccer field.”
Andersen said he didn’t understand why players started coming onto the field to block his path in front of “those funny-looking posts sticking up in the air” and why a “little guy” came up to him licking his fingers before kneeling on the ground.
“Up in front of us was not a pretty view, either,” Andersen said, pausing for the laughter. “There was a line of big derrieres, and they were facing me.”
Eventually, he nailed the kick. And soon after, he had “80 new friends, just like that.”
“Welcome to America,” Andersen said.
Andersen made a lot more friends over the next three decades as he went on to a remarkable career that, after college at Michigan State, spanned 25 seasons with the New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants, Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings.
The “Great Dane” was a member of the NFL’s all-decade team for both the 1980s and 1990s. He was a seven-time Pro Bowler. And he remains the leading scorer in both Saints and Falcons history.
He was known for his strong leg on kickoffs and 50-yard field goals before they became the norm around the NFL. And the biggest kick of his career was a 38-yard game-winner to send the Falcons to the Super Bowl after the 1998 season.
“I never saw anybody like Morten,” the coach of that Falcons team, Dan Reeves, told ESPN this week. “And he earned it. He was by far the hardest worker [among all the kickers I’ve been around]. Because of that, you had so much confidence in him.
“People may say it’s not a big part of the game. Well, believe me, if you’re a coach getting ready to go a Super Bowl, it is. And he was money.”
“He was special,” said longtime Saints coach Jim Mora, who admitted he probably didn’t realize how special until “we made a mistake and let him go.”
“He certainly deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, probably deserved to be in it before now,” Mora said.
Andersen talked about the perseverance it took for him to work out for 20 months at a local park in his “Giants practice pants, Falcons practice jersey, Saints helmet, a pair of Pro Bowl socks left over from the good ol’ days and my Kenny Stabler shoulder pads” before the Falcons gave him the chance to come back in 2006, at age 46, to become the NFL’s all-time scoring leader.
And he thanked a number of people, from family to coaches to teammates to the kicking fraternity that has been waiting far too long for someone else to join Jan Stenerud, the only other true kicker elected to the Hall of Fame, in 1991. Both Andersen’s contemporaries and modern kicking stars such as Adam Vinatieri and Justin Tucker have been rooting for this day for a long time.
“I believe my induction sends a clear message that the position of the specialist is important, relevant and undeniable,” Andersen said in his speech. “Hopefully more will find their way into the Hall of Fame.”
Andersen saved his most heartfelt words for his wife, Jennifer, talking about what a special person she is and how much she has meant to him.
Then he drew more laughs by dropping a popular line that has perhaps never been used in a better setting:
“I know I outkicked the coverage when I met you,” Andersen said.