Mr. Automatic gets the “Hall Call”

When the Saints had few heroes, Morten Andersen filled the void

            Now an offensive juggernaut, it might be hard fans born after 1990 to remember a time when a dominant defense and a kicker carried the Saints. But the change from NFL pretenders to contenders started with four linebackers and the left foot of Morten Anderson. The defense – led by the Dome patrol, Rickey Jackson, Sam Mills, Vaughn Johnson and Pat Swilling – kept opposing teams out of the end zone, and the anemic offense was just good enough to get Andersen in position to split the uprights. He was extremely accurate, and kicking from further than 50 yards out didn’t seem to faze him. When “Mr. Automatic” took the field, the stands rang with a chorus of “Soitenly,” the catchphrase of the Three Stooges’ Curly Howard.

            Andersen ended his 25-year NFL career as the league’s all-time leading scorer (2,544 points), as well as all-time leader in games played (382), extra points in a career (412), field goals made in a career (302), field goal attempts (389), field goals made in a season (31), and field goals made in a game (5). Additionally, he’s the only kicker who made two all-decade teams, 1980s and 1990s.

            Last week, Andersen became the third Saint (William Roaf, Jackson) and only the second pure kicker (Jan Stenerud in 1991) to enter the NFL Hall of Fame.

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            “Twenty-five years flew by,” Andersen said about his career and enshrinement. “It’s surreal to be here and know that that bust is going to last for 40,000 years? Well, I’ll be there for part of that. Football’s been an unbelievable tool and platform for myself, and my family, and we’re grateful.”

            Although he played for five teams in his 25-year career, Morten is a Saints icon.

            New Orleans selected him with the 86th overall pick in the fourth round of the 1982 NFL draft. He’s the club’s all-time leading scorer (1,318 points), and for 13 seasons, he was one of the most popular players on the roster. And was the fourth player in franchise history to be added to its Ring of Honor (Archie Manning, Jackson, and Roaf).

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            “Morten Andersen was one of the best kickers to ever play the game, if not the best," former Saints coach Jim Mora said to Times-Picayune. “He wasn't just a kicker. He was a weapon for us.”

            Andersen is beloved not just because of his scoring prowess, but because he made New Orleans his home. He lived in a blue two-story in Harahan, was seen around town year-round at events and festivals, opened “Champions” sports-themed restaurant where Pottery Barn is now at Lakeside Mall in Metairie, supported local charities – especially Children’s Hospital – avidly, and was approachable in his celebrity – agreeable to photos and autographs (Although the ball is long gone, a cherished childhood memory of mine involves a meet and greet autograph session circa 1985 with Andersen at Lakeside’s J.C. Penny store. He signed with a gold paint pen – a novelty then – and put his signature smiley face in the “a” of his last name).

            He played at one of the major turning points in the Saints history. He arrived at the intersection of the end of Manning’s playing career with the Saints and the beginning of Tom Benson’s ownership of the club, when the Saints – and their faithful – first experienced sustained winning.

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            “Morten is one of the greatest players in our team’s history and arguably the best kicker in NFL history,” Saints Owner Tom Benson said in a press release announcing the selection. “The reliability and excellence that he provided for us at the kicker position during his tenure with the Saints has been unmatched. Morten is a big part of the tradition and success of this organization and we would like to congratulate him.”

            Of course, Andersen was released by the Saints as a salary cap casualty after the 1994 season. He signed with the archrival Atlanta Falcons, where, over eight seasons, he also became that franchise’s all time leading scorer (806).

            He retired in 2008 as a seven time Pro Bowler, six-time All-Pro and holder of 13 NFL records. He was added to the Saints Hall of Fame in 2009.

            The Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony will be held Saturday, Aug. 5, at the new Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton and will be televised nationally by NFL Network and ESPN.


Did you know?

            Although he would go on to become the NFL’s all-time leading scorer, his career got off to an inauspicious start. The first time Morten Andersen received his now iconic No. 7 Saints jersey, his name on the back was misspelled. It wasn’t long before New Orleans and the rest of the nation knew the kicker from Copenhagen, Denmark, ended his surname with s-e-n, not s-o-n.


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