FILE – In this Jan. 17, 1999, file photo, Atlanta Falcons kicker Morten Andersen
The packed crowd at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium politely clapped Thursday when Morten Andersen was introduced before the exhibition game featuring Dallas against Arizona.
Each member of the 2017 class was introduced. Andersen, who had two stints with the Atlanta Falcons, will be enshrined Saturday along with Terrell Davis, Kenny Easley, Jerry Jones, Jason Taylor, LaDainian Tomlinson and Kurt Warner.
Andersen came to the United States from Denmark as a foreign exchange student. He wanted to attend school in Washington, Colorado or Idaho, but he ended up in Big Ten country in Indiana.
“My intent was to come to America as a cultural exchange student for 10 months and then go back home and finish my studies in Denmark,” Andersen said. “American football was not on the radar at all for me. I was here simply to learn the language. Immerse myself in the American way of life. Soak up as much as I could about American culture, the language and social values.”
But the football coach found out that Andersen could boot a football long distances and that led him to Michigan State and eventually the NFL.
“My family had an exchange student from Colorado, who took over my room for 10 months,” Andersen said. “There is no question, if these 10 months don’t happen, we’re not talking today.”
Andersen (1995-2000, 2006-07) will join Claude Humphrey (1968-74, ’76-78) and Deion Sanders (1989-93) as long-time Falcons in the shrine. Tommy McDonald (1967), Brett Favre (1991), Eric Dickerson (1993) and Chris Doleman (1994-95) played for the Falcons, but earned their gold jackets while playing for other teams.
For the 25 seasons and 382 games that Andersen kicked in the NFL, he carried around spiral notebooks and laminated cards. He wrote down all of the details of each of his many kicks and is the NFL’s all-time leading scorer.
“I was fortunate enough to be here with him the first time I was in Atlanta with June Jones,” Falcons special-teams coordinator Keith Armstrong said. “He was our place-kicker, and you talk about a detailed guy.
“That ball, everything was right for him. He critiqued everything. He was very specific about his game. He knew how he wanted the ball snapped. He knew how he wanted the ball held. He was picky, meticulous and a technician to the point where he was a perfectionist.”
Andersen made the 38-yard field goal in January 1999 that sent the Falcons to their first Super Bowl.
“You talk about a guy who really practiced his trade and his craft. He knew it from A to Z,” Armstrong said. “I learned quite a bit from him. You know, you can learn a lot from players. In particular a guy like him. You learn a lot when you are around him, and he was a hell of a team player, a lot like Matt Bryant.”
Armstrong uses some of Andersen’s methods with his kickers and punters today.
“The biggest thing from him is staying in the moment and letting the past be the past,” Armstrong said. “He was always moving forward. He rarely wanted to talk about bad kicks. He didn’t what to hear about them.”
Bryant is a big fan of Andersen, who’ll be the first traditional kicker to go into the Hall of Fame since Jan Stenerud was inducted in 1991. Lou Groza was enshrined in 1974, but he was a kicker and a tackle. George Blanda, who was enshrined in 1981, was a quarterback and a kicker.
“It’s great that he is going in,” Bryant said.
What Julio Jones had to say on Monday
What are Beasley’s odds of winning defensive player of the year?
Garland No. 1 at right guard on Falcons’ first official depth chart
Falcons fifth in preseason power rankings according to Bleacher Report
Fans react to Jalen Collins’ suspension
Ryan on Sarkisian: ‘We’re a lot further along’
Andersen’s enshrinement might open the door for other kickers, such as Adam Vinatieri and Gary Anderson.
“The thing is that a lot of times people don’t like kickers, but kicking is part of the game,” Bryant said. “Mort did it for so long and was good for so long. Points are critical in this game, and he has the most of anybody in the history of the NFL.
“It’s good to see a kicker get in there. I so happy for Mort to get in there. He’s so deserving of it.”