The Great Dane

Morten Andersen to be fourth player added to New Orleans Saints Ring Of Honor

           Although he would go on to become the NFL’s all-time leading scorer, Morten Andersen’s career got off to an inauspicious start.

           The first time 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.

           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.

           He’s the all-time leading scorer for the Saints (1,318 points), and for 13 seasons, he was one of the most popular players on the roster. Andersen developed a penchant for hitting big kicks at the most opportune times, more often than not it seemed a 50-yard game-winner. When “Mr. Automatic” took the field, the stands rang with a chorus of “Soitenly,” the catchphrase of the Three Stooges’ Curly Howard.

            On Monday, the team that selected Andersen with the 86th overall pick in the fourth round of the 1982 NFL draft announced he would be the fourth player in franchise history to be added to its Ring of Honor.

            “It truly is an honor and a privilege to be joining three legendary Saints players Archie Manning, Rickey Jackson, and Willie Roaf,” Andersen said at the announcement at Saints Training Camp at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.V. “It’s humbling because there’s only four of us that are going to be up there right now, immortalized, and a wealth of emotions kind of flood over you in a powerful moment like this.”

            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 in Metairie, supported local charities 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 & 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.

            “Saints games were like a religious experience for people in New Orleans. There was God, Family and the Saints and it is still like that,” Andersen said Monday. “I think for me the experience on Sunday afternoon in the dome was just, it is hard to explain unless you are there, but it’s kind of like you are in church. You’re in church with 70,000 of your best friends and everybody’s pulling in the same direction. It was the hugest home field advantage for us and it still is.

           “To me, what being a Saint, and what makes being in New Orleans special is the people and the intensity of the experience with those people. It’s a whole different level. You can talk about all the other cities in America but for me it’s amateur hour. Unless you’ve been to New Orleans and been to Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest and walked down Bourbon Street at 2 a.m., well I don’t recommend 2 a.m. Unless you have been to Port of Call and had a burger and been through a monsoon, you haven’t lived yet.”

           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.

            “I’d say sooner or later this guy is going to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That’s a fact,” Saints head coach Sean Payton said at the Ring of Honor announcement. “Morten Andersen will go in this fall into the Ring of Honor and hopefully sooner then later will go into Canton. I’m sure it will be soon.”

            And when he gets the call, will he go into the Hall of Fame as a Saint?

            “Soitenly!”

 

Extra Point of Interest

            When the Saints returned to the Superdome for their first game in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina on Sept. 25, 2006, Morten Andersen scored the Atlanta Falcons only points, a first quarter field goal, in the Black & Gold’s 23-3 win. 

 

 

 

Categories: The Pennant Chase