Morten Andersen Enshrinement speech

Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium

August 5, 2017

Good evening, Canton, Ohio! Good morning, Denmark. I was born in the Kingdom of Denmark, the birthplace of famous Danish fairytale writer, Hans Christian Andersen. His magical stories have traveled the world and, just like he did, inspired young and old alike.

When I was young, I often imagined the faraway places he described. My parents always encouraged my twin brother, Jakob, and I to travel and learn about different cultures and engage with people in foreign countries. I know they probably didn't realize how quickly this would change our lives.

When Jakob was 16, he went to the South Pole on an expedition. Shortly afterwards, I headed to the USA as a foreign exchange student. Now, my story isn't only about my love for my country of Denmark and its people, but also my deep appreciation and respect for what I discovered here in the United States of America.

The plan was simple. I would live with an American family for ten months, enroll in high school, and, upon completion, return to Denmark to continue my studies. I landed in Indianapolis on my 17th birthday. There to greet me was my new American family, the Bakers. I had barely blown out the candles on my birthday cake before the question came, So, do you want to go watch a football game? We need a kicker.

Word had spread that there was a kid in town from far away who might be able to help the Ben Davis Giants High School football team at the place kicking position, and apparently that kid was me.

Now, having grown up playing soccer, handball, and doing gymnastics, American football was not on my radar screen. I knew nothing about the sport, but that would change.

A defining moment in my life came two days later when I trotted onto the field wearing a purple jersey, No. 46, white practice pants, shoulder pads meant for a linebacker, and a helmet that could hold more than one large box of movie popcorn. I argued that I didn't need all this stuff. I had my soccer shorts and soccer boots. A T shirt would do. My words were met with wondrous bemusement, puzzled looks, and I soon learned the necessity of wearing heavy armor.

The whole team lined up on the sideline just to watch my tryout. I don't think they expected much. The feeling was mutual. My thoughts were: Let's get this over with so I can go find a soccer field. It was then I learned the process of kicking a football is quite involved.

Suddenly players appeared from everywhere, proceeded to line up in front of me. I was confused. What are they doing? Is that necessary? The guys were really big. They blocked my view of those funny looking posts sticking up in the air.

A smaller guy approached me and asked if I was ready. He was licking his fingers. "Should I do that, too," I asked him. He looked at me confused and proceeded to kneel on the ground. "Red, set." It startled me.

Up in front of us was not a pretty view, either. There was a line of big derrières. And they were facing me. And from the middle of the mass, a ball came flying back to the little guy kneeling on the ground. He placed it vertical on a small black platform. I took a second look: Oh, man, the ball is not round.

I looked around for help. Anyone, anything. Coach Wilbur came over and whispered to me: Just kick the shit out of it. And if you don't, I'm sending you back on the boat.

Message received. The ball flew high and through those white things, and I looked over to my new teammates. I think they liked what they saw. And suddenly I had 80 new friends, just like that. Welcome to America.

(Cheers and applause.)

At the time, I didn't give much thought to what had just happened, but looking back it's easy to see this singular event changed my life forever.

Coach Wilbur, I'm grateful for your vision. You saw a young kid with raw talent and gave him the opportunity of a lifetime. Without that, I'm not standing here today. Thank you, Coach.

(Applause.)

The Baker family took me in as one of their own, and I owe them my deepest thanks. I've learned that with age comes wisdom and perspective. I know now that quality life is all about purposeful living with people that you love and respect. The focus is on we and not me. This I learned from football. This I learned from my teammates, my coaches and support staff throughout my career.

The number of people who have been a part of my football life is staggering, and they have given their energy and passion to make the team better, to make us better.

My fellow Dane, Hans Nielsen, along with Coach Bob Baker, recruited me to Michigan State University. My Spartan years gave me some of the best moments of my life. I will always treasure my time in East Lansing and value the friendships of my many Spartan brothers and sisters. Spartans will!

(Cheers and applause.)

I owe Coach Bum Phillips a huge tip of the 10-gallon hat. He had patience with me when I started my NFL career in New Orleans, and he stuck with me until we got it right. Bum was always good for a good story and a lot of laughs.

When John Mecom owned the team, he wanted to be more involved and asked Bum how he could help. Bum looked at him, paused, and said, "Well, you're the owner, so own." And that was that.

Bum cared about his players. In meetings, he'd talk about life, how to be a good guy, how to help others. He taught me the value of giving back to the community. I'm proud to have started Kicks for Kids in New Orleans. We helped Children's Hospital and raised a lot of money.

(Cheers and applause.)

Without the wisdom of Bum Phillips, I'm not sure that would have happened. I miss you, Bum.

Today, Tom Benson has done a remarkable job, not only with the Saints, but throughout professional football. We're here together in Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium tonight.

(Cheers and applause.)

That's right. I'm thankful we have an owner who reinvests in the game we all love. Thank you to Tom and Gayle Benson.

I have a deep love for the city of New Orleans and its football team. Our connections together run deep, and I believe the fans are the most loyal and passionate anywhere. I have great, great admiration for the spirit and attitude of the people of New Orleans. They taught me even through hard times to love life and stay positive. I will always be a part of New Orleans and always a Saint.

(Cheers and applause.)

Circumstances, however, dictated that I would spend the second half of my career with four other teams. My profound gratitude to the Falcons, the Giants, the Chiefs, and the Vikings for allowing me to continue my American dream.

I value the relationships I have with Jim Mora, Sr.; June Jones; Dan Reeves; Jim Fassel; Dick Vermeil; John and Mike Tice; and Jim Mora, Jr. I thank Arthur Blank and the Falcons for bringing me back in 2006 for what would be another defining moment in my life.

You see, in the beginning of 2005, I was in Atlanta with my family having just finished my let’s see 23rd NFL season. I felt confident I'd continue and perhaps have a chance to become the NFL's all-time leading scoring, just 76 points away.

However, for months the phone didn't ring. For 20 months, it didn't ring. Still, my trainer, Keith, and I would go to the public park, me in my Giants practice pants, Falcons practice jersey, Saints helmet, a pair of Pro Bowl socks left over from the good ole days. My Kenny Stabler shoulder pads. And I'd kick there four times a week.

When the Little League teams needed the field, I would defer, leave and come back later and grind. I even convinced the grounds crew to cut the grass short for me.

2005 turned to 2006. My friends started questioning my sanity: You've had a good run, Morten. Get on with your life. They called me stubborn. I wasn't finished. I wanted to finish on my terms. I needed to know what was left in the tank.

So, in early October 2006, I was sitting in my basement watching the Falcons play their second regular season game. Their kicker had a bad day. I turned to my buddy Eric, and I said, Hey, I'm switching to water now 

(Laughter and applause.)

because the phone is going to ring soon. I didn't get much of a reaction from him. I know, I said, I know it hasn't rang in 20 months.

Shortly after the game finished, the phone did ring: Hey, can you come in tomorrow morning for a tryout? How about 2 p.m.? And there I was, 46 years old, guys, in Flowery Branch, facing four flat bellies half my age.

The was an orange stripe in the middle of the net behind the goal post. You see, I like the middle, and I always aim for it because the middle never changes. So, I did well, and soon the flat bellies exited right. And my biggest decision became black or blue ink. I chose black ink and signed a one year deal.

And a couple of months later in the Georgia Dome, as you guys just saw on the screen, I completed my mission and became the all-time leading scorer in the history of the game.

(Cheers and applause.)

The lesson is simple. The lesson is simple. Bring your will and perseverance to everything worth doing. When the reward is sublime, the risks are higher. And you must embrace the uncomfortable to go into that rarified air of excellence.

I learned esprit de corps or group spirit from my special teams' brothers and coaches. There have been many dynamic and colorful special teams' coaches, and I love and thank them all. Like the players they coach, they're a special breed.

I want to mention one coach, Frank Gansz, Sr., who had a profound impact on everyone he encountered. We lost Coach Gansz, but his memory and legacy live on through the many players and coaches he impacted. I had my best year with Coach Gansz. He was an ally and friend who we'll never forget and I will always honor.

My sincere gratitude to all my teammates and support staff throughout the years. Brian Hansen and Bobby Hebert, they were a big part of my journey.

While I've always appreciated the uniqueness of my position, I never felt isolated. I always felt included and a part of the team. I value the long snapper and holder. You were my bread and butter, and I was fortunate to have the very best. The countless hours spent drilling with you, working to be great, is one of my favorite memories.

I believe my induction sends a clear message that the position of the specialist is important, relevant, and undeniable. Hopefully, more will find their way into the Hall of Fame.

(Cheers and applause.)

I'm honored to join my new Hall of Fame brother, Jan Stenerud, tonight, along with all these great legends of the game, along with the Class of 2017.

 Jan, you set the standard, and it was high. All specialists owe you a debt of gratitude for your unselfish trailblazing. You've always carried yourself with dignity and grace and have been a tremendous friend and advisor through this process.

Also, I know some of the great kickers in our game are here tonight. Thank you for making the game better and me better by being the very best.

Finally, I want to thank Team Andersen. My mom and dad encouraged my brother and I to travel and broaden our horizons. I'm thankful to both of you for giving us balance for life. I proudly share this honor with you.

(Applause.)

My brother, Jakob, is amazing and talented, and we'll always have a special bond.

My wife, Jennifer, has been the light of my life for 27 years. You are the most unselfish, giving human being I know. You've always been the light and never the shadow. I'm forever grateful for your unconditional love and friendship. Everyone you connect with is profoundly changed by your incredible giving spirit. You are rare in so many ways. I know I out kicked the coverage when I met you. Love you.

(Cheers and applause.)

To my boys, Aiden and Sebastian, I want you to know your dad succeeded because he worked hard and had perseverance. I encourage you both to stay curious and ask questions. Live your life with passion and energy, and give more than you take. I love you immensely and proudly share this wonderful night with you.

Our family foundation supports a variety of charities. We believe in our young generation, and we believe in our special op soldiers and their families.

(Cheers and applause.)

Our motto is: What you give will grow, and what you keep will perish. My hope and prayer for all of us tonight is that we will always possess a generous spirit of giving, love, and compassion for each other.

Thank you. Good night, Canton. And good night, Denmark.

(Cheers and applause.)



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