Those who vote for the Pro Football Hall of Fame have been slow to honor the game's greatest kickers. This makes little sense for two reasons:
• 1. The sport's founding fathers found kicking and punting to be an important enough part of the game that it they wrote those positions into the rule book. So to ignore the contributions of kickers, out of some misguided belief that the position just isn't macho enough, is illogical.
• 2. As former Falcons' and NFL kicking great Morten Andersen put it, "It is called, FOOT-ball. Not HAND-ball."
Andersen is the NFL's all-time leading scorer. He has yet to be enshrined in Canton, Ohio. The idiocy of this came back into focus when he made the cut from 26 to 15 as a Hall of Fame "finalist" for the fourth time last week. The voting takes place Saturday, Feb. 4, the day before the Super Bowl in Houston, and if some of the grumpy voters in the room let go of their biases this time, then Andersen's career will be recognized along with the game's greats.
Andersen was a guest on the, "We Never Played The Game" podcast. He was one of the most entertaining subjects we've had on the show and spoke on a variety of subjects, including: his chances for the Hall; his strange introduction to football when he was an exchange student in Indianapolis after coming to the U.S. alone from Denmark when he was 17; his thoughts on former Falcons teammate Michael Vick; former coaches Bum Phillips and Jim Mora in New Orleans, and Bobby Petrino with the Falcons; kicking the Falcons into the Super Bowl with an overtime field goal at Minnesota in the 1998 NFC championship game; and the Super Bowl that followed.
There are only two pure specialists in the Hall of Fame: kicker Jan Stenerud and punter Ray Guy. Two other former specialists in the Hall also played other positions: kicker/tackle Lou Groza and kicker/quarterback George Blanda.
Among some of Andersen's comments:
• On the anti-kicker stance of some voters: "The position is misunderstood. They think if you’re not an every down player or you don't have your hand in the dirt, you’re not a football player, you’re a specialist. And I don’t deny I’m a specialist. But if you look at the context of the game of football and the value of players, where do you put more value -- the guy who plays 76 snaps or the guy who puts points on the board? I don’t know."
• On the first time he saw a football game, a high school game in Indianapolis: "I started focusing on how the offense starts and it was quite honestly disturbing to my immigrant perspective. What I saw was a really big guy in tight pants and he was bent over and had a ball in his hands. And that in itself might’ve been OK if not for the much smaller guy in equally tight pants coming up from behind him and licking his fingers and pointing and screaming commands. I turned to my host (family) brothers and said, 'I want to be that guy -- I don’t want to be that guy.' They assured me I would just have to kick and run off the field."
• On Bobby Petrino: "Coward comes to mind. Liar comes to mind. Spineless comes to mind.”
• On feelings in the locker room about Michael Vick in 2006, before the dog fighting allegations first surfaced: "There were some questions about the discipline. Good things snowball but so do bad things. For some reason I didn’t see a huge commitment on his part or anybody else’s part to fix it. Because Mike was bigger than life. He was approachable to me. He was very polite. He would always call me Mr. Andersen. I was 46 and he was half my age. I think he was just too far gone at the time. And what happened off the field obviously had been going on for quite a while."
Below is a look back at Andersen's field goal that sent the Falcons into the Super Bowl in 1998. His comments on that kick and then what happened at the Super Bowl and the impact that Eugene Robinson arrest had on the game are worth a listen.
Subscribe to the, “We Never Played The Game” podcast with Jeff Schultz and WSB’s Zach Klein on iTunes. All episodes can be downloaded and heard on iTunes or via WSBRadio.com. New episodes every Monday and Thursday.
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