Brian Allee-Walsh

Saints kicking legend Morten Andersen awaits Hall of Fame answer

CHRIS TILLEY/ASSOCIATED PRESS 
 Morten Andersen
CHRIS TILLEY/ASSOCIATED PRESS Morten Andersen AP

For 25 years, former New Orleans Saints kicker Morten Andersen put his best foot forward in the National Football League, arguably kicking a football between two unforgiving goal posts better than anyone who has played the game.

His NFL resume' is impeccable, longevity and production beyond reproach, individual records and honors unparalleled. But does the "Great Dane" have a leg to stand on when it comes to getting in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

An answer is forthcoming Saturday, on the eve of Super Bowl 50, when a 46-member selection committee convenes in San Francisco to determine the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2016.

Andersen is among 18 finalists - 15 modern-era former players and coaches, one contributor and two seniors - who will be considered for induction the first week of August in Canton, Ohio. No fewer than four and no more than eight will comprise the Class of 2016. Eighty percent approval (a minimum of 37 votes) is needed for selection.

According to former Saints coach Jim Mora and longtime NFL kicker John Carney, Andersen is a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame, suggesting the question is not if but when. Andersen has reached the finalist stage the past two years and failed to generate enough "yes" votes. Perhaps the third time will be a charm.

"I can remember so many times standing on the sidelines when the game was on the line, no matter what the distance, and he would go out there with a great deal of confidence, with ice water in his veins, and he would stick it through the uprights," said Mora, who coached Andersen in New Orleans from 1986 through 1994.

"That's the big difference between Morten Andersen and other kickers in the NFL. Not only should Morten Andersen go down as the greatest kicker in National Football League history, but he should go down as one of the great players in National Football League history. I really believe that."

Carney, who counts two stints with the Saints in a distinguished NFL career that spanned three decades, agrees wholeheartedly with Mora.

"Morten Andersen is the 'King of Kicking.' He was an impact player and franchise player over his entire career," Carney said. "In all honesty, I don't see how you can keep Morten Andersen out of the Hall of Fame. If any kicker belongs in the Hall of Fame, it's Morten Andersen; without question.

"I believe his time is now."

Other finalists can make the same argument; that's where it could get a little dicey for Andersen, who is trying to join Jan Stenerud as the only pure kicker in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Former USM All-American Ray Guy became the first pure punter to make the Hall of Fame, going in with the Class of 2015 last August.

This year's front-runners are said to be former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre, a native of Kiln and product of USM; outside linebacker Kevin Greene; wide receiver Marvin Harrison; former 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr. (contributor); former Saints quarterback Kenny Stabler (senior); and tackle Orlando Pace.

But strong cases can be made for wide receiver Terrell Owens, quarterback Kurt Warner, former LSU guard Alan Faneca, guard Joe Jacoby and coach Tony Dungy, among others.

Andersen, now 55, remains cautiously optimistic.

"Based on the body of work, I think I belong," he said. "But there are other guys that belong, too."

The Class of 2016 will be introduced as a group during a primetime special to air at 8 p.m. Saturday on CBS.

Brian Allee-Walsh, a long-time Saints reporter based in New Orleans, can be reached at sports@sunherald.com.

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