After an offseason where the Falcons had a kicking controversy for the first time in what seems like a decade, Atlanta eventually brought back franchise icon Matt Bryant. But long before Bryant started his exceptional run, the Falcons had another legendary kicker: Morten Andersen. Andersen had two stints in Atlanta, and is of course best known for his heroic kick in the 1998 NFC Championship that defeated the Vikings and sent the Falcons to their first ever Super Bowl.
I had the opportunity to conduct an exclusive interview with Andersen just before the 2019 season. I’ll be splitting the interview into three parts, as it was quite long. Here’s Part 1, where Andersen discusses his NFL Hall of Fame induction, what it was like to finally get in, and several of the kickers and punters he believes have a good shot at making it in to the Hall of Fame.
Morten was speaking on behalf of US-bookies.
Kevin Knight: You were recently inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as part of the 2017 class, one of only two kickers in history to be given that honor. Congratulations! What was that experience like for you?
Morten Andersen: The induction was incredible because of the wait to get in, and how difficult it is to get in. When you look at the numbers, it’s a very exclusive club. Out of 27,000 coaches, players, and contributors, only 328 are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That’s like 0.006% of all NFL players, coaches, and contributors. If you then look at how many kickers have made it, it’s an even smaller percentage. I knew those numbers ahead of my induction, and thought to myself “wow, this may never happen.”
I did feel like I had some ammunition on my side: I was the all-time leading scorer in the history of the game at the time, which certainly helped. My longevity, and my two all decade teams--I felt like that helped. So when I did get the knock on the door from David Baker--which was unique, because I got a call the previous times when I didn’t get in--it was really a relief more than anything. It was quite emotional. There’s a video of the knock on the door out there and it’s pretty wild to see, in retrospect, how you react.
Initially, it was just disbelief, and then relief that it actually happened. And then, to be able to share it with all the people who helped me along the way, was unbelievable. I thought we had a great class--really high quality guys who deserved to be there. I just enjoyed it so much. I go back every year--it’s a fraternity like no other in the world. It’s just an amazing group of guys and an amazing, unique four days every year. To be able to call yourself a “gold jacket”, and be up there to celebrate with your brothers--celebrate the new class. It’s truly special.
K: That’s incredible, and like you said, with just two pure kickers ever making it in, the numbers are just crazy. So it’s really phenomenal that you managed to get in. As a Falcons fan and a fan of the sport, it was incredible for me to finally hear that you made it in. I was rooting for you!
M: Thank you. And hey, we got Tony G (Gonzalez) in there too!
K: Yeah! That’s fantastic. On that note, are there any other current NFL kickers that you believe may have a shot at the Hall of Fame in the future?
M: Well, I think Adam Vinateri is certainly a guy now: being the leading scorer, playing a long time, having Super Bowl-winning kicks, big kicks in the playoffs. He would have to be considered. Justin Tucker is a really high-end guy. Matt Bryant is a high-end guy who has played for a long time.
I also think there are some guys who are no longer playing any more that should be considered. Eddie Murray from the Detroit Lions, Jason Hanson from the Detroit Lions, Nick Lowery and Gary Anderson--those are four guys that immediately come to mind as far as kickers. Two punters that I really liked would be Jeff Feagles and Sean Landeta right now. And then you also have a couple of guys who have just retired: (Sebastian) Janikowski, and the punter for the Raiders who moved on to Houston: Shane Lechler. So those are all guys who I think will get consideration moving forward. Twenty guys are being inducted next year for the centennial celebration, including at least ten senior selections. It’s going to be a really big class next year.
K: Yes. I know that there’s a lot of hope surrounding the 2020 class, and I know there’s a lot of people who hope that we start allowing in more of the senior players and contributors. There appears to be quite a significant backlog starting to form, in my opinion.
M: No question. There really is a huge wait at the door, and so many guys who are deserving that have been waiting a long, long time.
Thanks for reading the first part of my interview with Morten Andersen. Check back next week for Part 2, where we discuss Morten’s thoughts on the current state of kicking in the NFL and talk about some of his favorite moments with the Falcons.