Hey Falcoholics, I’m back with another edition of The Falcoholic’s Throwback Thursday series. This weekly segment highlights a former Atlanta Falcons player and discusses their life and what they did for the franchise.
Whether you’ve been a fan since the inaugural season, or just became a fan recently, this series will give insight on players from the past. This week we will be focusing on kicker Morten Andersen.
Morten Andersen was born on August 19, 1960 in Copenhagen, Denmark, and raised in the town of Struer. Morten visited the United States in 1977 as an exchange student. With a past of playing soccer in his native country, Morten kicked his first American football while kicking for Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis, Indiana. Scouts were so impressed that he was given a scholarship to Michigan State University.
Morten Andersen set several records at Michigan State, including a Big Ten Conference record 63-yard field goal against Ohio State. Additionally, he was selected Second-team All-Big Ten in 1980, and First-team All-Big Ten in 1981. On September 24, 2011, Morten was inducted into the Michigan State University Athletics Hall of Fame.
With the 86th pick in the 1982 NFL Draft, the New Orleans Saints selected Morten Andersen. Morten unfortunately started his career on the wrong foot, twisting his ankle on the first kickoff of the season, leading him to miss eight weeks. Still, Andersen soon emerged as one of the best kickers in the league. In his 13 seasons with the Saints, Morten scored 1,318 points on 302 field goals, and was selected to six Pro Bowls. From 1986-1987, he was named a First-Team All-Pro. Following the 1994 season, he was released by the Saints.
Following his departure from the Saints, Morten Andersen signed with the Atlanta Falcons. In 1995, his first season with the Falcons, Morten was selected to the Pro Bowl and named First-Team All-Pro. Later that season against the Saints, Morten became the first player in NFL history to make three 50+ yard field goals in a single game.
A special moment that will live on in the minds of Falcons fans everywhere came late in the 1998 season. Against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship, Morten converted a 39-yard field goal in overtime, which sent the Falcons to their first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. Although the Falcons went on to lose the big game, “The Kick” as it’s commonly known, is one of the greatest moments in Atlanta Falcons history.
After spending six seasons in Atlanta, Morten Andersen signed with the New York Giants prior to the 2001 season. In his lone season as a Giant, Morten made 23 of his 28 field goals. From 2002-2003, Morten kicked for the Kansas City Chiefs where he converted 38 of his 46 field goals. The Chiefs released Morten during the 2004 offseason after he lost the kicking job to rookie Lawrence Tynes.
Although his leg wasn’t what it once was, Morten Andersen remained one of the most accurate kickers in the NFL. The Vikings signed Morten to kick for them in the 2004 season, where he made 18 of his 22 field goal attempts. Following the 2004 season, Morten was a free agent, and became an announcer for NFL Europe games in 2005.
Morten Andersen not only returned to kicking in the NFL in 2006, but he re-joined one of his former teams, the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons attempted to have punter Michael Koenen perform as both a kicker and punter, but it failed, and Koenen returned to strictly punting duties following the Morten signing. Morten’s first game back with the Falcons came against another former team, the New Orleans Saints, on Monday Night Football. This game was heavily-televised as it was the first game in the Louisiana Superdome since Hurricane Katrina prevented its use in 2005. Morten scored the only points for the Falcons, a 26-yard field goal in the first quarter.
In his second game back with the Falcons, Morten Andersen made all five of his field goal attempts, and was named NFC special teams player of the week, becoming the oldest player to earn the honor since the award’s creation in 1984. On December 16, 2006, Andersen passed Gary Anderson to become the all-time leading scorer in NFL history. A week later, Morten again passed Gary Anderson to become the NFL’s career leader in field goals made.
On September 17, 2007, Morten Andersen again signed with the Falcons, and finished the season making 89.3% of his field goal attempts, the most accurate season of his career. The following year, Morten officially retired from the NFL.
Morten Andersen retired as one of the greatest kickers in NFL history. His long and storied career was further appreciated when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2017. Morten was also inducted into the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame, the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, and the Danish American Football Federation Hall of Fame.
His accolades include being selected as a 5× First-team All-Pro, NFL 1980s All-Decade Team selection, NFL 1990s All-Decade Team selection, and 7x Pro Bowl selection. Morten currently has the most points in Pro Bowl history (45), most games played in a career (382) and second most points scored in NFL history (2,544). He finished his career with 565 conversions on 709 field goals attempted, a 60-yarder as his longest field goal, and 79.7% career accuracy percentage.
In 2009, Morten Andersen and his wife started a non-profit organization, the Morten Andersen Family Foundation; which raises money for quality life programs for children and youth, and also quality life programs for military members.
Growing up in the 90s, Morten Andersen was the first Falcons kicker I knew of. The “Great Dane,” as he was nicknamed, held just about every kicking record available at the time of his retirement. Even though he spent a sizeable portion of his career with the Saints, Falcons fans will always appreciate the time he spent in Atlanta during his two stints.
Let me know in the comments below some of your favorite Morten Andersen memories. As always, you can find me on Twitter @EvanBirchfield. Thanks for reading, Falcoholics!