If you’ve been reading our content here at The Falcoholic for a while, you know that we enjoy speaking with legendary kicker Morten Andersen. He’s an Atlanta Falcons great who kicked for the team from 1995-2000, 2006-2007 and is one of four kickers in the prestigious Pro Football Hall of Fame.
I was able to speak with Andersen again recently, and we discussed everything from kicker Matt Bryant to Andersen’s favorite memories from his seven Pro Bowls.
Recently, the NFL flirted with the idea of doing away with the current onside kick rules and moving towards a new format where the offense has an attempt to get a first down and retain possession. The idea was eventually tabled, but it’s possible the league could revist the idea down the road.
“The onside kick to me is one of the most exciting plays in football because of the unknown. You know, I was the first guy to really do the bounce. In the past it would be, roll around on the ground and hope for a bounce up so that your guys can go and play basketball and rebound it,” Andersen said. “But then we devised this kick where you hammer down on the ball and it takes a big bounce, goes about twelve yards, and that’s where you overload and set up. We had great success in the mid-90s with special team’s coach Joe DeCamillis and Dan Reeves, and we used it a lot and it was a weapon. We used it a lot as a surprise, we would come out on opening kickoffs sometimes and do it in preseason and stuff, and get the ball back. For me it’s an exciting play and I would hate for it to go away.”
After year’s of being in Orlando, the NFL announced that the 2021 Pro Bowl would take place in Las Vegas, site of the newly located Las Vegas Raiders. Morten Andersen participated in 7 Pro Bowl’s throughout his career, so I asked what he remembers best about those events.
“Just the characters that I played with in Hawaii. You know, I went to Hawaii seven times. I would go out there early and I actually ended up buying three acres on the big island,” Andersen said. “One of our hangout spots was the Black Orchid which was Magnum, P.I. Tom Selleck’s place. We’d be there, Jim McMahon would be one of the guys that I would hangout with. Walter Payton was a character. I remember one year, Joe Montana held for me and he was so nervous that I would kick his fingers. I said, “Well, get them out of the way.” He said “How do you want the ball?” I said “Vertical would be nice.” He was just so nervous that I was going to hit his fingers. We actually had a really good Pro Bowl game, I think I made like three field goals. He did Charlie Brown me though a couple of times, pull his hands out of the way. But it was such a great time, they have a great venue out there in Honolulu and just really fun to be apart of.”
This segued into my next question, which was who is favorite player was to be around throughout his 25-year NFL career.
“Well, Walter Payton was my absolute favorite guy to watch and to be apart of that Pro Bowl with,” Andersen said. “When I was with the Saints we were playing the Bears when Walter Payton broke the NFL rushing record. They stopped the game and he wanted none of that. He took the ball and ran it off the field, and said “Let’s go, let’s play.” We got our butt’s waxed. That was special to be apart of.
One of my favorite guys that I played with the Falcons was actually Clay Matthews, Jr. He was a tremendous linebacker, played 19 years, I think. Played with the Browns and finished his career with the Falcons. Really a great dude. Just funny, intelligent, smart, hardworking – just a real professional. So, I really enjoyed being around him. There are so many guys from our Super Bowl team that I enjoyed being with. That was such a special year, 1998-1999 where we just gelled together, and all three phases played at a high level. You know, Chris Chandler, Jamal Anderson, everybody on defense – Cornellius Bennett, we call him “Biscuit” – just some great guys.”
With the 1998-1999 Falcons being such a special team to be apart of, I was interested if Andersen stays in contact with any of the guys from the team.
“I do, I do. I actually just texted Chris Chandler, he’s out west living. There’s a picture of him and I embracing on the stage after the NFC Championship game (pictured above) where we’re so happy. I took a picture of it and sent it to him, good memories together,” Andersen said. “I see Chuck Smith quite a bit. He had a huge play against the Vikings in the NFC Championship game, where he had a sack-fumble on [Randall] Cunningham that really was a pivotal part of the game. I stay in touch with Dan Reeves, I’ll text him once in a while and Joe DeCamillis our special teams coach.”
One of the most interesting statistics about Morten Andersen, is that in his 25-year career which ultimately helped get him into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, his most accurate season was his last. In 2007, Andersen went 25/28 on field goal attempts or 89.3%.
“Well, I didn’t have the distance so, if you look at my ratio of makes, the distances made were shorter than normal,” Andersen said. “So, we really didn’t try anything over 50 yards with me. We had Michael Koenen, so he would try the long ones. I was right there at 50 yards, that was my threshold. Anything 50 yards and inward, I felt pretty comfortable with. But I was dialed in, I was ready to go, and it was a fun season. We didn’t win, but it was fun to perform and go out that way for sure. I think my last game against Seattle I was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week and I think I was the oldest guy ever to get that, at age 47.”
After having the most accurate season of his legendary NFL career, kicker Matt Bryant was released by the Falcons as they attempted to move in a different direction with Giorgio Tavecchio who served the team well when Bryant missed time with injury the year prior. After being handed the job, Tavecchio struggled and Bryant was ultimately brought back for the first week of the season having no time to practice with the team during the preseason. After having a slew of different punters due to injuries, it seemed like Bryant had a different placeholder every week and was struggling to adapt so the Falcons released him mid-season. Naturally, I had to get Andersen’s analysis on how rotating placeholders can affect such an incredibly accurate kicker.
“It’s important to have a good holder. It’s important to have complete trust in that guy that he can put the ball where you want it, on the spot, vertical, and get the laces out of the way,” Morten Andersen told The Falcoholic. “The ball shouldn’t be spinning when you hit it, it shouldn’t be leaning a way you don’t want it to lean. It’s important that if you’re going to miss the spot, you don’t miss it from side-to-side because when you’re coming forward as a kicker, you can change your stride length a little bit, but you can’t change your width when you’re coming forward. You know, I had a year where I had like 3-4 different placeholders and it’s not ideal, and you never get into a rhythm. I think with Matt [Bryant] not being there to grind it with them, and to communicate what he wants, it’s not ideal.”
Since retiring, Andersen has been passionate about supporting our military and those in the special forces. Morten and his wife Jennifer created Special Teams for Special Ops as part of the Morten Andersen Family Foundation, where they’ve raised over $1 million. Andersen also helps with the Boys & Girls Club and a variety of other Atlanta charities.
Andersen says, “I always enjoy engaging with fans. I get a lot of fan mail. I’m also on Cameo.”
Additionally, if you’d like to read more about Morten Andersen, and his history with the Falcons, click here. I greatly appreciate Andersen for taking the time to speak with me, on behalf of Bet Pennsylvania which he is an ambassador for.