Football is on our mind’s here as we are graced with a football legend, Morten Anderson. First of all, congratulations. What an honor to be named as a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“Thank you very much. It really is. When you start looking at the names that have been on that list for many years, some of them have gotten into Canton, Ohio and some are still waiting. It is quite humbling to be among that elite group. I am certainly honored and humbled to be even considered for induction.”
I introduced you by your nickname, the Great Dane. How did that come about?
“You know, I’m from Denmark and I guess I’m pretty big for my size. They used to say when I kicked ‘the Great Dane lifts his leg again.’”
Take me back to the start of your NFL career. It started kind of awkwardly didn’t it?
“That’s an understatement. It was almost derailed from the very beginning. I was hurt on the opening kickoff of my NFL career by a guy named Randy Love, of all people, from the St. Louis Cardinals back then. It was on the opening kickoff and I had kicked a touchback and the upback kept running at me and decided to start running away from him and I snapped my ankle on the turf in the Superdome and was out for eight weeks. The strike came and that was really kind of a blessing for me. I was able to rehab and get healthy so when the game started back up I was able to come back and play. It was a very ominous start to say the least.”
Being from overseas and making your mark in this country, you’ve probably been asked this a million times but who taught you how to kick?
“I was self-taught mostly. I had great guys around me that allowed me the freedom, facilities and equipment to get better. In New Orleans particularity, Mackie Shilstone, him and I worked diligently together to get in shape, with my skill in sports-specific training and things like that. But really, as far as putting foot-to-ball I was pretty self-taught. ... It’s been great to now be able to teach other guys the skill and watch. They’re so good now and so strong and accurate. It’s amazing.”
You mentioned this new generation of kickers but I notice that indoor kickers have trouble translating to outdoor venues. How were you able to do it?
“I don’t think I differentiated between the environments. I really focused on what I controlled which was my effort and attitude and work bench and really owning my skill set. My focus was on that. The moment of truth when my plant foot hit the ground, you were either in the right place or wrong place. I really spent a lot of time rehearsing mentally and physically training that particular movement, that skill, so that it became unconscious. I think that if you do that as an athlete you can apply that to really anything in the high performance business. You have to own your skill set. You have to have confidence. You have to let the game play you and trust it enough that you don’t over think things and you just become an athlete and just react. That’s really what I tried to do in my 25 years.”
After 25 years in the game, what is life without football for you now?
“It’s busy. It’s enriching. I found passion in fundraising through my foundation, the Morten Anderson Family Foundation. I help special operation forces soldiers and their families when they come back from overseas. We also have fitness initiatives to help obesity in young people, Boys and Girls Club. I have a company, a national consulting company. I sit on a couple of boards. I do public speaking. I wrote a best-selling book in Denmark. Other than that, I’m not too busy.”
If you get to the Hall of Fame, as far as inducting you, have you given any thought to whom that would be and how that process would work for you?
“I have given that some thought and those thoughts are private at this moment. I haven’t made a final decision because it’s not relevant. If that becomes relevant, obviously I share it with everybody but right now I don’t want to jinx anything. Plus, right now there are so many worthy candidates that have been waiting longer than I have. I just want to allow the process to take its course and if my name is called out, I’ll be grateful, humbled and honored. If not, I’ll have the patience to wait until hopefully it happens one day. But right now those thoughts are kind of private with me.”
There is certainly a place for place-kickers in the Hall of Fame but what about punters? What about guys like Ray Guy?
“I think Ray Guy belongs based on his performance and his body of work but I don’t have vote. So those 46 guys, those 43 guys that sit in that room the night before the Super Bowl are the only ones going to determine whether Ray Guy gets in but I think the more specialist that we can get in there, Tim Brown was a kick returner who is a finalist, I welcome that.”
You and Bobby Hebert have both played for the Saints and the Falcons, are there any comparisons between the two teams and two cities and how they view the rivalry?
“I think there are. I think New Orleans is… I wouldn’t say more passionate about their football team but I would say there are other professional franchises and other things in Atlanta that vie for the fans attention. New Orleans is a small, big town. They love their Saints. It’s part of the fabric of that city. It’s almost like a religious experience. I had the feelings, at least the 13 years I was in New Orleans, that you were part of something bigger than just the Saints. You were part of a community event. You were part of something larger in your responsibility to do a good job was bigger than anywhere else that I played. I don’t know if that makes sense but I think the fans are passionate. They’re maybe the greatest fans in the NFL quite honestly, sometimes to a fault. You know where they stand win or lose they are Saints fans. I know they hated me for going to Atlanta and I don’t blame them because they are Saints fans. It was a job and I always will think of myself as a Saint. I have a great admiration and great love for this city and the people of New Orleans and always will.”
Is there a favorite kick? A moment that stand out above all the rest?
“There are. There were a lot of fun game winners but I think in the Superdome on New Year’s Eve to put us in the playoffs against the Rams was a pretty fun night and a pretty fun kick. There were great moments. The 49-yarder against the Dallas Cowboys in (Tom) Landry’s last year in the Superdome. The niner games that we had. We had the tough 49er battles. There are so many great moments. And the games against Atlanta where we beat them quite often was a lot of fun.”
Sounds like you had fun and you’re having even more fun without the helmet on.
“Yeah, it was tough in the beginning. Getting out of football in 2008 and you have to find your way. You can’t under estimate the energy and the passion and the guidance that you need in that transition. Once you find your way and your path, there is life after football. But what a huge platform, what a privilege to have that platform that was developed in the NFL now to do other great things and that’s what I chose to do and I’m having a lot of fun doing it.”
There’s the phrase the bucket list. Is there something on the top of yours that you’d be willing to share with us?
“I just think watching my kids grow up and be successful men and leaders would be something that I would be really proud of. Let’s just leave it at that. I think the greatest legacy of any man is how he did as a father, husband and leader of the family. I think watching these two young men that we have over here, grow up and be great people would be a great bucket list moment for me.”