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Kicking, smiling "Great Dane" is a Saints, Louisiana all-time star

Morten AndersenMorten AndersenMorten Andersen distinguished himself for 25 NFL seasons, arguably kicking a football between two unforgiving goal posts better than anyone who has played the game.

Longtime NFL observers believe the left-footer is destined to land in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, and perhaps will be a first-ballot entrant with the Class of 2012 on the eve of Super Bowl XLVII (Feb. 3, 2013) in New Orleans.

According to former Saints Coach Jim Mora, who coached Andersen in New Orleans from 1982 through 1994, the “Great Dane’’ is a shoe-in for Canton.

"If you follow football at all, you’ve got to marvel at the career Morten has had," Mora said. "Good kickers can make the 50-yarders in practice and in pre-game warm-ups, but the great kickers are the ones who can put it through the uprights with the game on the line. I can remember so many times standing on the sidelines when the game was on the line,  no matter what the distance, and he would go out there with a great deal of confidence, with ice water in his veins, and he would stick it through the uprights.

“That's the big difference between Morten Andersen and other kickers in the NFL. Not only should Morten Andersen go down as the greatest kicker in National Football League history, but he should go down as one of the great players in National Football League history. I really believe that.’’

Mora is not alone in his belief.

"Sooner or later another specialist is going to go in," said Andersen, who finished his NFL career as the Saints' and NFL's all-time leading scorer with 1,318 points and 2,544 points, respectively.

“Whether it's me or Gary Anderson or Nick Lowery or Ray Guy, I don't know. There are so many other great players out there who have been waiting for years and years and years. Based on the body of work, I think I belong, but there are other guys that belong, too."

Time will tell if Andersen makes the cut in Canton.

Meantime, he has a few stops along the way.

The first came on Nov. 6, 2009, when he was unanimously inducted into the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame. The second comes when he will take his rightful place in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame during dinner ceremonies Saturday, June 25, at the Natchitoches Events Center.

Two down, one to go.

“This is a tremendous honor,’’ Andersen said of his inclusion with the esteemed Louisiana Class of 2011. “I am very humble today. Today my heart is smiling, and today my spirit soars.

"This means a lot to be able to come in now in an environment when the Saints are so successful and everybody is so upbeat and positive about the football team.’’

Andersen, a native of Copenhagen, Denmark, finished his storied career with the Atlanta Falcons (1995-00, 2006-07), New York Giants (2001), Kansas City Chiefs (2002-03) and Minnesota Vikings (2004).

The seven-time Pro Bowl player is a member of the NFL’s â€œAll-Decade’’ team for the 1980s and 1990s and the Walter Camp All-Century team for college football for his career at Michigan State

If elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Andersen said he would proudly represent each of the five teams he represented during his illustrious NFL career. But the feeling is New Orleans still commands a special place in his heart, despite being dumped unceremoniously by the Saints' organization on the eve of training camp in 1995.

Sixteen years later, the wound has scarred over and the good far outweighs the bad.

"One of the reasons that my relationship was great with New Orleanians was that I immersed myself in the culture there and the city, and I became a New Orleanian,'' Andersen once said.

"Even though I'm still a Danish citizen I became part of the fabric of the city and I got involved in community service. I was a visible Saint. I wasn't a guy who went home afterward. I liked to party. I was single back then and I had a good time there and New Orleans likes to party.''

Though Andersen claims to remember nearly every single kick, the makes and misses, of all his Saints memories, he cited two kicks that remain in the forefront:

• Oct, 27, 1991, Chicago beats New Orleans 20-17 to snap the Saints' season-opening seven-game winning streak: "I remember the sound of a 60-yarder I made in the Dome against the Bears before halftime. It was a sound unlike any kick I've ever hit. You wish you could can that thing and make it part of you always, but it sounded like a cannon going off in there. Then, of course, the roar in the crowd and my beating heart afterward was pretty intense as well.''

• Oct. 9, 1983, Andersen kicks Saints past Atlanta 19-17: "I come back to the 35-yarder from the left hash at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium with Kenny Stabler driving us down, and Kenny Duckett returning the kick, and Hokie Gajan getting a couple of swing passes and all of a sudden we're there. And it's two seconds to go and (Stabler) calls timeout. I'm coming on the field, and I'm nervous and I'm 23 years old and (Stabler) is 38 and he's in maybe his last year and he goes, 'Hey Morten, let's go home.' It calmed me right down and I kicked the 35-yarder from the left hash and we went home and it was a great experience.''

If given more time to reflect, Andersen probably could recall numerous occasions when he kicked his opponents where it hurt the most –  right between the goal posts.

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Induction dinner tickets and golf entries are available online at the www.lasportshall.com website for the 2011 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Induction Celebration June 23-25, with New Orleans Saints heroes Morten Andersen, Vaughan Johnson and Buford Jordan, and LSU and big league baseball star Todd Walker headlining this year’s inductees.

West Monroe High School football coach Don Shows, Xaver-New Orleans and NBA standout “Slick” Watts, Louisiana-Lafayette softball three-time All-America pitcher Kyla Hall Holas and innovative LSU athletic director Thomas P. “Skipper” Heard complete the Hall’s 2011 induction class. Heard will be honored posthumously.

Tickets and golf entries, along with congratulatory advertising for the commemorative program, can be ordered with secure credit card transactions through the website or by calling the Hall of Fame office at 318-238-4255. No tickets will be sold at the door.

 

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