Morten Andersen, one of two pure kickers to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame joined us for a phone interview.
Considered to be one of the greatest to ever play, as a seven-time Pro Bowler and five-time All-Pro, Morten talked about how to beat his nerves leading to a big kick, what it’s like to play in the Super Bowl and be in the Hall of Fame, and who he sees as some of the greatest currently in the NFL.
Without further ado, Andersen answers our questions, and tells his experience of what it’s like to be a legendary kicker, who played for 25 seasons; for the New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, Kansas City Chiefs, and Minnesota Vikings.
When you first started playing in the NFL, who did you consider to be your favorite kicker?
“The first was Jan Stenerud because he’s from Norway and he had a lot of success with Kansas City. He was one of the guys that I kind of wanted to emulate. Obviously, he was back when I was at Michigan State.
I had a lot [of players to look up to] when I started becoming scouted by the NFL. Gil Brandt was one of the first guys over there in Dallas with Tex Schramm. He was one of the first guys to really install all of the scouting combines and how to scout the players and so forth. So, I was getting a lot of correspondence from the Dallas Cowboys. I thought I’d be a Cowboy, so I started to follow that team. The kicker was Rafael Septién — so I started following the Cowboys and him because they were sending me letters on the regular.
Toni Fritsch was another guy; the Houston Oilers! Toni was brought in by Bum Phillips. When I got hurt in New Orleans in 1982, they brought Toni in there to kick for a couple of weeks until I got healthy. He was a pretty interesting guy; one of those guys who’d smoke cigarettes in the locker room. It was a completely different era back then.”
What was your favorite stadium to play in that wasn’t a dome?
“That’s easy. Green Bay Packers, Lambeau Field. It was just such a unique place to run out of that tiny tunnel. I played in old Lambeau and new Lambeau, and the atmosphere was the same. [Playing there] really was one of those moments where you have chills down your spine. It an incredible place, and I think it’s because of the legacy also because Green Bay is such a unique city that owns the team.”
“Although I had good games there, I wasn’t a big fan of Candlestick Park. When you have a baseball stadium that also serves as a football stadium with the in-field, and grass, and mounds, it’s hard. — When you come from grass to dirt, it’s hard. It’s hard to get footing, it’s hard to get a good plant.
Football is meant to be played on grass or turf. If you’re a purist, grass. Not grass and dirt. I wasn’t a big fan of these baseball-football stadiums.”
How does it feel to be one of two pure kickers to be in the Hall of Fame?
“It’s amazing. There is such a small percentage. It is everything I’ve ever dreamed it could be and more. It’s just an incredible fraternity. I’m just so honored to be a part of that very very select group of guys. I can’t wait to go back every August and see everybody.”
Which current or retired kickers do you think can join you in Canton?
“I would say Adam Vinatieri and [Sebastian] [Janikowski might have a chance and Justin Tucker in Baltimore if he continues to play at the level he’s playing. Matt Bryant was very good. Guys that are retired like Eddie Murray, Nick Lowery, Jason Hanson, Gary Anderson, those four come to mind; they were special in their era. They were elite in their era.”
As for us punters, I’d say Shane Lechler, who just retired, and Jeff Feagles; those two guys come to mind.”
What’s on your mind when you get iced? Does it help you, or does it negatively affect you?
“You can’t ice ice. It gives me extra time. When they take that timeout, I say ‘thank you.’ This gives me extra time to get my breathing right and get aligned. I just re-cycle through my routine, just more time. It never bothered me.
[But] I do think it’s a little unfair now where you can call a timeout right before the snap. It’s a judgment call; I don’t like that. It should be a clear signal that I’m on. That’s not gamesmanship, that’s Mickey Mouse to me.”
How nerve-racking was it to be in the Super Bowl? Or were you just numb to the pressure?
“I was not [calm]. I wouldn’t say I wasn’t ready for the game; I more wasn’t ready for the magnitude of the feeling of that game.
Because we [the Atlanta Falcons] had just come through an emotional NFC Championship game earlier (where he kicked a game-winner). We had two weeks to build-up to the game in Miami, and we played an okay game, we were moving the football, we just didn’t score touchdowns, we scored field goals. I missed a short field goal. They [Denver Broncos] made a couple of big plays against us and won the game.
So, for me, it was a little overwhelming. I was a little taken back of just what kind of feeling it was. I think it’s a distinct advantage if you’ve been to that game before; especially with all the festivities leading to the game. It’s very hard not to start reading the headlines and all that stuff and the B.S. and just focus on what matters and keep it a normal game. In retrospect, I could’ve done a better job with that.”
How do you come back from missing a big kick?
“You have to embrace the distasteful. You have to embrace that world of suck because you know you’re going to fail. You know your job is judged on whether the ball goes through the uprights or not. So, you have to understand that one kick, good or bad, doesn’t define you, that it’s a long season, and to immerse yourself in being really good at the work part, the process, and have short-term memory.”
What did you to get better and correct mistakes?
“If you’re doing something off, go to the film, and look at when you’re hitting the ball well. That’s why I would chart kicks. I would chart them, and I’d see patterns. I would say ‘here’s a cluster of balls going left, why are they going left?’ Let’s go to the film and let’s figure it out before it became a problem. So, I was always proactive on a daily basis; managing my behavior to meet the objective. My objective was to be as good as I can be.”
What was it like to drill a game-winning kick?
“It’s an adrenaline rush that I can’t even describe. There’s just a flush of energy and adrenaline surging through your body almost like an electric current. You feel superhuman, you kind of go numb and just become so in the moment. It’s the highest of highs, like missing a game-winner is the lowest of lows.
Missing is a horrible feeling. It feels like there is a knot in the pit of your stomach; imagine deep grief. It’s the total opposite when you make it; it’s just ecstasy, you’re floating, a tremendous amount of relief, and reassurance that what you’re doing is paying off.”
You’re a Saints legend, how do you feel about them going into 2019?
“I love the Saints. They are my pick in the NFC. They re-signed some key guys, Brees is back, very strong kicking game, very good skill positions, whether it be receiver or running back. They’ve been together and have gone deep in the playoffs, and have gotten screwed. They are my NFC pick, and I like them a lot.”
What about their kicker, Will Lutz?
“I love Will Lutz. Love him, love what he’s doing. I’ve seen him work; I’ve talked to him, he’s a bonafide top NFL kicker right. So, I am a big fan of Will Lutz.”
Andersen retired in 2008 in possession just about every record an NFL kicker could have; including most games played (382), field goals attempted (709), most game-winning field goals made (103), and most seasons with 75+ points scored (24). That all came despite being a left-legged kicker from Copenhagen, Denmark.
Thanks to US-Bookies.com for making this interview possible.