NEW ORLEANS On Aug. 5, Danish-born kicker Morten Andersen will be inducted into the Pro Football of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Along with six other members of the Class of 2017, the player commonly known as the “Great Dane’’ will be enshrined in the preservation hall of the National Football League during ceremonies at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
And to think Andersen’s memorable 25-year NFL career got off on the wrong foot as a wide-eyed rookie 35 years ago with the New Orleans Saints.
On Andersen’s first kickoff to start the strike-shortened season of 1982, he badly twisted an ankle and was forced to miss eight weeks, giving team officials time to ponder why they used the 86th overall draft pick on a strong-legged but unproven ball-striker with one year of college experience.
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Andersen managed to score 12 points (6 PATs, 2 FGs) in a limited role once the season resumed around Thanksgiving.
“I remember it like yesterday,’’ Andersen recalled Sunday during a break in the pre-game festivities leading up to Super Bowl LI at NRG Stadium in Houston between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons. “I felt a great deal of despair and a lot of anxiety because I was a young player and they took me in the fourth round, and now all of a sudden I’m out indefinitely until my ankle heals.
“I did horrible in the preseason,’’ he said. “I think I made 4-of-12 field goal attempts or something like that and then this happened. I kept screwing things up. I wasn’t sure if (then Saints coach) Bum Phillips was going to keep me. Actually, the work stoppage was a blessing in disguise because it allowed me to get healthy during the strike. When we started playing again, I was fine.’’
Andersen injured his right ankle, on his plant leg, while trying to elude a determined St. Louis Cardinals defender hell bent on leveling him.
“A guy named Randy Love — No. 40 for the St. Louis Cardinals —he was an upback on their kickoff return team kickoff trying to block me,’’ Andersen said. “He didn’t realize I had kicked a touchback. So, here he is running after me. Well, when I saw him running after me, of course, I started running the other way out of self-preservation.
“That’s when I snapped my ankle on the Astroturf (at the Louisiana Superdome).’’
Needless to say, making the Hall of Fame “was not on my radar screen yet,’’ Andersen chuckled.
“I have no words to describe all that’s happening to me right now,’’ said Andersen, 56. “I’m floating, you know. When I land, I hope that I am as grateful for the experience as I am right now and for the relationships that I’ve made and all the great men and great people who have helped me along the way.
“This is not a ‘me’ award. This is a ‘we’ award for sure.’’
Besides Andersen, the Class of 2017 includes running backs LaDainian Tomlinson and Terrell Davis, quarterback Kurt Warner, defensive end Jason Taylor, safety Kenny Easley and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
All seven will be formally introduced by a person of their choosing at the ceremony during which a pewter bust of the inductees will be revealed.
“Sebastian is going to introduce me,’’ Andersen said of his 17-year-old son who currently is a junior at Lanier High School near Sugar Hill, Ga., not far from their home in Buford. “Unless he gets cold feet and then I’ll have to go to Plan B. And I don’t have a Plan B.’’
Brian Allee-Walsh, a longtime Saints reporter based in New Orleans, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.