Andersen: Time for kicker or punter in Hall

Morten Andersen said it would be “awesome” to be selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. Not just for himself and those who helped him along the way -- but for the entire kicker fraternity.

Andersen, who spent the majority of his 25-year career kicking for the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons, said this week that he’s also rooting for fellow finalist Ray Guy to become the first punter enshrined.

“I think it’s due time for a kicker or punter to get into the Hall so Jan Stenerud has some company,” Andersen said -- referring to the only true kicker in Canton -- who was enshrined 23 years ago.

“I think the time is right,” Andersen said. “I think kickers have been at the forefront for the last number of years, playing at a high level. More games than ever are being decided by three points or less. The position is relevant.

"And it’s being talked about. These guys are getting so good that we have to change the rules.”

Andersen referenced a handful of rules “tweaks” in recent years, as well as the growing talk about possibly eliminating the extra point -- which, by the way, he is not in favor of. (“That’s like messing with apple pie and Chevrolet,” Andersen said. “Make it longer maybe, but I just don’t think you abolish it.”)

“The most important thing," Andersen said of his Hall of Fame hopes -- whether it be himself or Guy or Gary Anderson or Adam Vinatieri or someone else kicking down the door, "I want to recognize the position in the context of the history of the game. (Kickers in recent generations) have made a significant contribution and also changed the way the position was viewed.

“I think you can make that argument for Ray Guy. I won’t say whether you can make that argument for me -- I’ll let you decide. But I think there are several guys who have.”

It’s not hard to make that argument for Andersen.

The “Great Dane,” who came to the NFL by way of his native Denmark and Michigan State, is the NFL’s all-time leading scorer with 2,544 points and the league’s all-time leader with 382 games played. Andersen scored at least one point in 360 consecutive games -- which is the most in NFL history by nearly 100 games. He was a member of the NFL’s all-decade team for both the 1980s and 1990s, a seven-time Pro Bowler and a five-time All-Pro.

Andersen is the leading scorer in both Saints and Falcons history. He was a go-to guy for coaches like Bum Phillips, Jim Mora and Dan Reeves. He was on four Saints playoff teams, and kicked the Falcons into the Super Bowl in 1999 with a 38-yard field goal in overtime of the NFC Championship Game against the Minnesota Vikings. Andersen also spent time with the New York Giants, Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings.

And he wasn’t just a “compiler.” He had one of the game’s strongest legs. He set then-records for most 50-yard field goals in a season (eight in 1995) and a career (40).

Andersen’s biggest hurdle to Hall enshrinement is probably his accuracy. He was good in that department, but not elite (79.7 percent for his career). That is probably why he didn’t make the list of 15 finalists last year in his first year of eligibility. But he’s making progress, having cracked the final 15 in Year 2.

When asked what he is most proud of in his career, Andersen said, “I would say consistency over a long period of time.”

“Scoring in 360 consecutive games, when the next guy (at the time) had 180-some games, that’s sort of a record no one ever talks about. But it’s significant. That’s a lot of games,” Andersen said. “Just the high level of consistency over a quarter-century, that’s what I’m most proud of. And then being able to deliver big kicks when they counted, when the game was on the line.”

Andersen said he never envisioned a 25-year career when he started out. In fact, he wasn’t sure he’d make it past Year 1 after he suffered an ankle injury during his opening kickoff with the Saints as a rookie in 1982. And he only made 2 of 5 field-goal attempts in that strike-shortened season.

“I’m just very fortunate that Bum Phillips gave me a chance to stay around for a couple years,” Andersen said. “It didn’t start out too well.”

Andersen spent his first 13 NFL seasons in New Orleans after arriving as a fourth-round draft pick. Then he spent a total of eight seasons in Atlanta in two different stints with the Falcons.

He now lives north of Atlanta, where he started an international consulting company and remains heavily involved in charity work. But Andersen also still has strong ties to New Orleans. In fact, he’ll be in New York for the Super Bowl this weekend, representing New Orleans for the third straight year in the annual Taste of the NFL charity event, along with Commander’s Palace chef Tory McPhail.

It’s hard for Saints and Falcons fans to imagine that anyone could have such a close bond with both rival franchises. And of course, Andersen has been asked often over the years whom he would represent if he had to choose one in the Hall of Fame. Luckily for him, that is not a concern since there is no helmet on the Hall of Fame busts.

“It would be a nice bridge to cross if I ever get to it. I’ll just say that,” Andersen said. “But I think most of my body of work was in New Orleans, my formative years were there. I would be hard-pressed not to look at that. ...

“Just being a part of that culture and that team, I realized that no one is bigger than the game. Those fans are so die-hard down there, it’s almost like a religious experience, how the people loved the team down there. And becoming a part of a community and working with places like Children’s Hospital, you understand what a huge platform you have.”

Both cities will celebrate Andersen’s induction if it happens. But perhaps neither city will be as proud as his native Denmark.

“Oh, absolutely, they’re keeping a close eye, I can tell you that,” Andersen said. “It would be front-page news.”