The Pro Football Hall of Fame will welcome its Class of 2017 on Aug. 5. This week, Shutdown Corner is highlighting the greatest moment for each member of the seven-man class, leading up to Saturday’s induction ceremony.
K Morten Andersen, 1982-2007
Morten Andersen was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, playing several sports: gymnastics, handball and football, which as we know is what the rest of the world calls soccer. He came to the United States as part of a cultural exchange program as a high schooler, spending 10 months in Indianapolis.
Those 10 months changed Andersen’s life; the Indianapolis high school he attended, Ben Davis, didn’t have a soccer team, so he let the football coach talk him into trying out to become the team’s kicker.
The rest, as they say, is history, a history that eventually greatly impacted the Atlanta Falcons.
Andersen, who will become just the third pure kicker inducted into the Hall, was a seasoned NFL veteran when he signed with Atlanta in 1995, a six-time Pro Bowler during his 13 seasons with the New Orleans Saints.
During the 1998 season, the “Dirty Bird” Falcons had the best season in franchise history to that point: behind running back Jamal Anderson and one of the league’s best defenses, they posted a 14-2 regular-season mark (still the best in the franchise’s 50-year existence) and advanced to their first-ever conference championship with a win over the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round.
But the Minnesota Vikings had gone 15-1 that season, so they got to host the NFC championship, and were favored in the game.
Atlanta was down, 27-17, early in the fourth quarter but came back to tie the game and force overtime; Minnesota’s kicker, Gary Anderson, missed a 38-yard field goal late in regulation that likely would have put the game out of reach for the Falcons.
But Chris Chandler marched his team down the field for the tying touchdown to force OT, and at the tail end of the Falcons second possession in the extra session, Andersen lined up for his own 38-yard attempt.
It was perfect.
Andersen was swarmed by his teammates. The Falcons were in the Super Bowl for the first time.
“That was a big moment for the team first and foremost, a huge game and a huge result for us,” Andersen said earlier this month on a conference call. “I was glad to be able to finish the job that the rest of the team had laid the groundwork for, and get it done in overtime.
“Absolutely a huge kick for the team and for me personally, and I was just glad we delivered. We were underdogs going to Minnesota and were not really given much chance to win up there and we trailed most of the game, but it sure was fun to watch that ball hit the net right between the pipes and hear the silence in the Metrodome.
“It was pretty cool.”
Atlanta lost to Denver in Super Bowl XXXIII two weeks later, but Andersen had given the franchise its signature moment.