Gold Jacket Spotlight: Morten Andersen gave more than he took

Gold Jacket Spotlight Published on : 8/28/2023
Scoring in the NFL requires discipline, grit and consistency, all of which can be characterized in MORTEN ANDERSEN. 

From traveling to the United States as a teenager, to playing weekly in the NFL and even practicing in a local park for one last change in the leagues, a person must be an extremely dedicated individual to press on when others would walk away. 

But the name Morten Andersen, which this week takes its place in the Gold Jacket Spotlight, represents far more than someone who set the NFL record for points.

Morten’s enshrinement speech featured the words “give more than you take.” For him, this saying relates to life outside football as well. 

Morten came to the United States as a foreign exchange student from Denmark at age 17. American football, at that time, represented nothing to him. 

Encouraged by a coach at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis,, Morten performed at such a high level he received a scholarship from Michigan State University. He excelled with the Spartans, becoming an All-American in 1981. 

The following year, Morten’s performance in the Big Ten landed him a spot in the NFL. He was selected in the fourth round of the 1982 NFL Draft. His career started slowly, but by Year 2, he showed signs of the accuracy, leg strength and work ethic that would propel him to a 25-year career that included five All-Pro seasons and seven Pro Bowl invitations.

A kicker’s performance entails more than himself, and Morten exemplified what it meant to play for others. 

“To keep your promise to your teammates that you’re not going to let them down,” he said in an interview alongside Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker.  

When it comes to the few north stars of kicking, Morten is one whom many admire and chase. In the same interview, Tucker introduced Morten as “one of my heroes on the football field.”

Morten opened his career in New Orleans and from 1982 to 1994, he attempted 389 field goals and 418 extra points — both club records that stand today. He also recorded an 86.7% field goal conversion percentage in 1986, as well as a 60-yard field goal against the Chicago Bears in 1991, additional Saints records when his 13 seasons in New Orleans ended.

“Going to a Saints game on Sunday was literally like a religious experience. It was like church,” Morten said about the standard Sunday environment in New Orleans. 

He joined the Atlanta Falcons in 1995, with other stops in New York (Giants), Kansas City (Chiefs) and Minnesota (Vikings) through the 2004 season. 

After 2004, Morten faced a defining moment in his career. 

Even at age 44, he expected interest from at least a few teams. Not a single club called in 2005.

“For 20 months, (the phone) didn’t ring,” he said during his enshrinement speech. “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 old days. My Kenny Stabler shoulder pads. And I’d kick there four times a week.”

Longevity sprinkled with grit defined his career. 

In 2006, he received a call from the Atlanta Falcons, and after impressing the coaches during the tryout, he joined the team. He retired after the 2007 season as the NFL’s all-time leading scorer. 

Discipline and his “give more than you take” mentality permeated all areas of his life. He founded the Morten Andersen Family Foundation with the stated purpose “to affect positive change among children and youth locally, regionally, nationally and globally.”

“What you give will grow, and what you keep will perish” is the motto of the foundation. 

Morten has exemplified what it means to give: to the game of football and in every aspect of his personal life.