Mark interviews his long time friend and former teammate Morten Andersen, also nicknamed “The Great Dane.” Morten who is from Denmark, came to the United States as a exchange student, tried out for the football team as a kicker and would go onto become an All-American at Michigan State University and longtime NFL Player. He is the all-time leader in games played in the NFL at 382 which spanned over 25 years; in addition, he also holds the distinction of being the all-time leading scorer in NFL history having played for both the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons among others to have a spectacular career. Morten retells his story when he was out of football for almost 2 years hoping to comeback and become the all time leading scorer. It was a painful period in his life not knowing how it would turn out but he did come back and was just inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. Wow! Way to go!
I’m very excited because we have a friend of mine from way back when I played for the New Orleans Saints. He was just inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, which is amazing. He played the longest of any guy ever in the history of the NFL, 25 years. I played about five and they threw me out. This guy had just an amazing career for a long time down in New Orleans, Atlanta Falcons, set the all-time scoring record ever in the history. It’s mind-blowing what he accomplished. Morten Andersen, an amazing guy, great friend and a fantastic football player. As always, I totally appreciate all the love that you have been giving me on iTunes, ratings and reviews. It helps get us more exposure. If you haven’t done that, please go in and do so. Enjoy this podcast. It’s fun. You’ll feel the chemistry.
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NFL Hall Of Famer Morten Andersen
I am so excited to have my guest on. His name is Morten Andersen. He just came out of the Hall of Fame. I played with Morten for a few years down in New Orleans. Some people call him the Great Dane. Some people call him a Hall of Famer. I call him my friend. Morten, how are you doing?
I want you to bring me back in because it’s really about the ceremony that you just did. It was such a wonderful thing. You have such a fascinating story. The reason why it’s fascinating is because to me, like most of America, we all grew up in this sport. I started playing when I was about six years old in the backyard, on the pavement in the streets with all my buddies. You’re a guy who grew up in Denmark. First of all, what was that like growing up? Describe your childhood.
Very active, involved in sports, just out from sun up to sun down. There was no internet back then. There were no mobile phones, “Meet me at the clock tower at noon.” If somebody wasn’t there, something happened. It was just literally a very pure, joyous way of life back then.
Certainly, you didn’t have American football, so what kind of sports were you playing?
I’m playing soccer. I’m playing team handball, which is an Olympic sport. I’m a gymnast and I ran track and field. I was involved on every aspect of every sport, it seemed like. That’s all I did.
I was invited after my NFL career to go back and try out for the Olympic US handball team. I chose not to do that for some different reasons, but I had seen it played when I was in Switzerland. It’s one of the most fascinating games I’ve ever seen. I remember when you and I were back in Hawaii and you were in the Pro Bowl and you had invited me to come over there with you and I gladly did. We’d been out playing tennis. I was just surprised for a kicker, your hand-eye coordination. That makes a lot of sense to me now between soccer and between handball, which really combines the different skills of running, throwing, catching and trying to get that ball in the net.
I think one of the reasons that I had a long career, 25 years, was because I played multiple sports and I used multiple muscle groups and motor skills. Especially gymnastics really helped me on a flexibility level and my core strength and prevention of the injuries. Because with kicking, anything you do for a long time, whether it’s serving a tennis ball or playing golf, swinging a golf club or kicking a football, you have these repetitive motion injuries that eventually are going to rear their ugly head. I really think having that base of gymnastics and just being an athlete really has helped me have a long career.
Let’s go back and stay in Denmark. What town did you grow up in?
I was born in Copenhagen. I have a twin brother. We were very young when we moved to the West Coast of Denmark to a little fishing village. My mom and dad moved over there because of their jobs. My dad was a psychologist, my mother was a teacher. We moved to this little 9,000-people little village on the West Coast of Denmark. That was a big change from Copenhagen, but it surely was a wonderful place to grow up.
What was the inspiration or was it your parents that forced you to go to the States or is that something that you wanted to do? You end up having this exchange student experience where you’re just going to go to the States for a few years during your high school and you had no idea what was about to happen to you, which obviously was life-changing. What was the impetus around that?
My mom and dad always encouraged my brother and I to be adventurous, to ask questions, to be inquisitive, be curious about other cultures and countries. We were taken at a very young age to different countries. My dad had a little red convertible and we would sit in the back. It was a two-seater but somehow, we were able to squeeze in there. We were very young. We would go down to German Autobahn. From a very young age, we had this adventurous spirit in the family. My brother went to the South Pole on a polar expedition ship when he was sixteen. I’m at home by myself and they just posed a question, “What do you think about becoming an exchange student?” I really wasn’t that interested. I was very happy in my Danish life with my soccer, my handball, my Danish friends and gymnastics, but they convinced me. The idea was to come over here for ten months, immerse myself into the American culture, learn the language and then go back home. That changed, obviously.
You’re over there, you get ripped out, although you want to go in an adventure and see the States. You’ve got 50 of them to pick from. How does that work where you throw it out there and then you land in Indianapolis, I think it was?
Yeah. I had three states I could pick on the application. The application process was about a year in advance, so this thing had been going on. I picked Washington, which you’re familiar with the State of Washington, obviously. I picked Colorado and I picked Idaho. I was just looking at a map of America and said, “Dad, I want to go there because there are mountains. This is different than Denmark.” Denmark has rolling hills, water, lakes. I ended up in Indiana, which is very much like Denmark. That was just by chance, but what a great family. I literally landed there on my seventeenth birthday and blew out birthday candles. The next thing I know, they’re asking me if I wanted to go see an American football game. I’m thinking, “Great, soccer.”
I think you’re talking about now the Baker family. You land with this host family. I think that’s what they call them. You come into their life. How did that happen where you come in there and somebody in the family suggested that you either want to play or you want to go to this game and pique your interest? How did that play out?
They knew my application, so they knew I was interested in sports. They knew I had played sports. It was just going one plus one has to equal two, “He can kick a soccer ball, so we’re sure he can kick a football.” They didn’t think it was a reach to ask if I wanted to be a kicker on their high school team. They had a need on the team for it. I didn’t have a soccer team at high school, so it forced the hand a little bit. They understood that I was an active young boy. They opened their home up. My family back home had a boy from Colorado for ten months to move into my little room back home. It was a beautiful thing, a very unselfish thing of this family. They had four kids already, so it wasn’t like they needed another son. They were very willing to just open up their home to a new culture and a new boy and expose their children to that. I think that was the impetus on their side for bringing me in. As far as being introduced to the game of football, that was purely by chance. This was literally not supposed to have happened.
This is your junior year?
Senior year in high school. I’m supposed to stay ten months. Two days after I had arrived in Indianapolis, I’m trotting onto the field wearing number 42, a high school jersey, wearing all the shoulder pads and the helmets. I didn’t want to wear those stuff. Soccer, you just put on shin pads, shoes, shorts and a t-shirt and you’re good to go. I was like, “Why do I need all this stuff?” It just became very obvious that I did need all this stuff.
That season must have gone really well for you because to blow in like that and then get on the radar of many of these different colleges out there and ended up getting a scholarship, I assume, to Michigan State. Tell me what that senior year was like for you in terms of never kicking a ball, to all of a sudden you’re kicking this thing and then you’re finding success.
It was trial by error, just trial by doing. We didn’t kick very many. I think I had about five or six field goals all year. The thing that differentiated my performance from maybe others was on the kickoff. In high school, when you kick a ball into the end zone, the guy’s got to take a knee. You can’t bring him out. Every kickoff was through the end zone, so it would became a non-play and it became a joke where you would see me kick the ball and then run to the sideline before the ball had even landed. It was one of those weird things. I could kick it a long way and that was the point. It opened up a tremendous amount of doors.
I used to get in the huddle with Morten because I was on the kickoff team and, of course, Morten is a kicker. I would just look at him and say, “Morten, would you mind pulling out the one wood and let the thing fly?” I was one of those guys who had to go crash through all those big dudes down there. I just did not like doing that.
You were the gunner on the outside. You were fast. You had speed, so we liked you on the outside but we also needed you catching the rock on third down. It was self-preservation. We didn’t want you to get banged up.
You kicking the ball out of the end zone back in the days certainly preserved my body to where it is today. Let’s go back. You do well enough, you’re getting nosed, you’re kicking the ball out of the end zone, people can’t return. You get a scholly to Michigan State and I think that might have been around the time that Magic Johnson was doing his thing there, right?
Yeah, in 1979 they won the national championship in basketball. We won the Big Ten Championship in football, baseball and basketball in ’78, ’79. Michigan State was pretty hot back then. It was a cool time to be a Spartan. I could have gone to Purdue University. They offered me a full ride as well along with a bunch of MAC schools, smaller schools. Michigan State became the place for me. There was a Danish kicker there named Hans Nielsen who literally lived an hour and a half from me back in Denmark. I didn’t know him but when he came and recruited me, we spoke Danish. He took me to Michigan State on my official recruiting trip and we just had a wonderful time. He explained everything. He said, “I’ve done this for four years,” so I thought, “If Hans can do it, I can do it.” That’s why I went to Michigan State.
How was your English back in the day?
I was doing okay. I still have an accent, especially the more wine I drink, the worse it gets. That’s just the way it goes. It wasn’t great the first year. It was school English. We learn English in Denmark from the third grade and then we learn German from the fifth grade and French from the seventh grade, so multilingual is pretty common when you’re a Danish student. English was adequate, but it became good very quickly I really think because I was just thrown into this raw, intense environment that a locker room is, that a football team is. I had to learn the slang. Funny story, when you make a mistake and you say, “My bad,” I used to think it was called “My bag.” For the longest time, I would say to people as an apology, “My bag.” They would look at me but they wouldn’t correct me. When I finally got married, I was doing “My bag” still to Jennifer and Jen goes, “What are you saying?” I go, “My bag.” She goes, “No, it’s my bad.” There were just a lot of little nuances and mistakes along the way. I wished people would correct me when I do make a mistake, but that one just hung on for a long time.
If you’re from the States, you’re just crediting that to, “That’s a European thing and maybe that’s what they do over there,” so why would you correct yourself?
I had another one. A guy would ask me, “What kind of soup do you like?” I said, “I like lent soup.” What I meant to say was lentil soup.
You played four years at Michigan State, you did well. Did you start your freshman year?
Yes, I did. We won the Big Ten in my freshman year. I actually was a leading scorer in the Big Ten in my freshman year. I played with Kirk Gibson. He was from Dodgers and a famous home running hit, limping around the bases.
Was he a quarter back or a running back?
He was a receiver just like you. He was very fast. White boy ran 4.2 for 40.
You have this great career at Michigan State, very successful, you made the right choice. Just as the stars would line up, then you get drafted in what round by the Saints?
Third pick, fourth round by Bum Phillips.
I can’t remember exactly the time, but I do know that the Saints were always in the cellar. They were horrible, the bags over the head, all that stuff. You’re down there now for two, three years before Jim Mora takes over?
He comes in ’85. I’m there with Bum Phillips in ’82, ’83 and ’84. I believe Bum gets fired after the ’84 season. Actually, he leaves a couple of games before the end and Wade, his son, takes over maybe with three or four games left in the ’84 season. Jim Finks comes, Jim Mora comes in and Tom Benson buys the team from John Mecom and there’s a big change.
Where I came into the picture, it was in 1987 with you and a couple of things really stood out to me. Number one, I had just come from the Raiders and they were littered with stars. Howie Long’s on the team, Matt Millen, Lester Hayes, Marcus Allen, and Jim Plunkett’s our quarterback. They had been in the Super Bowl two years before and then I get there. You’re in LA, a huge metropolitan area, and guys like Marcus Allen around the town. They were as popular as any actor that was here. The thing that I just found so fascinating is when I got down to New Orleans, the kicker, which in the history of me playing sports and being around kickers, they were never the star. They were just the guys over there. It’s the punter and the kicker, but down in New Orleans, you were like a full-cape hero. You’d earned that. You and I had a lot of fun running around town and going to different restaurants and bars and meeting people. It was fun to see you in that capacity. You were very gracious to the people that respected you.
I never sought that out. I felt it was very important to immerse myself into the culture. Being 21, 22, 23 years old and single in New Orleans is not a bad thing. It’s not a bad thing in Los Angeles either, I’m sure. I just really felt that it was important to give more than I took and to use the platform. It was the only show in town, the Saints. They love their college football, the LSU and so forth, but really it was the only show in town. We had picked of the litter. If you did the right thing and you were loyal to the team and the city, they would love you back. They still do love you back. I still have a very strong connection to the City of New Orleans. I still feel very strongly about my roots there. As a ball player, that was my proving ground, the formative years where you go from a young ball player and you figure it out. Thank God Bum was there because he had the patience with me because my start was dismal. I thought I was going to be gone before I had the chance to really stay. It did turn out great. Normally, you look at the kicker and he’s sitting at the end of the bench and not part of the team, but I just never felt that. I always felt like I was a huge part of the team. I always felt like I was integrated.
There are a lot of people on this podcast who don’t know this, which is you ended up playing 25 years in the NFL. You are the all-time leading scorer. You played in New Orleans for thirteen years. One of the things that really struck me when I got there, and I had never seen this in my life, is your work ethic which was different from any other kicker, punter, special teams player that I had seen. One of those things that you did, and I don’t know if this was your idea or Jim Mora’s idea or something you did in college and you picked it up somewhere, but you literally took the width of the goal post and you cut those things in half. It would be literally like taking a basketball hoop and making it half the size and then shooting on that every day. You were always pinpoint accurate right through those small goal posts. When we got on the field, when you were looking at a normal sized goal post in Candlestick Park or any other place we were playing, they just must have looked like a gigantic basketball hoop, right?
They did. It was my idea, this was before ArenaBowl. To work on an eight-foot goal post was a huge advantage for a couple of reasons. It made the focus much narrower and the middle much more defined. Aiming for the middle is what it’s all about. The middle never changes. That’s another thing. That’s the beauty about the middle. The perception of fooling yourself, the more you bleed at peace, the less you bleed in war, the Santayana type, the Portuguese philosopher. It is the fact that you make it so difficult in practice and so distasteful in practice. We have three hours on Sunday afternoon where you can just go out, be free and enjoy being an athlete. That was my whole thing. I wanted to prepare as hard as possible, as meticulously as possible, as detail-oriented as possible, and then it was great on Sunday.
You certainly proved your worth on Sunday. I think too that sometimes when you’re playing in the Superdome as we were, it’s a very controlled environment obviously because it’s a dome. Then you get out in places like playing in Chicago or New England or Candlestick Park in San Francisco where you get these swirls and you really need to be pinpoint accurate. That ball is going to move to the left or to the right, but if you’re aiming for the center you’re taking out that margin just a little bit. Your accuracy was just absolutely deadly. You’re so pressured. At the very end of the game is when it got down to that was what we were playing for. If we were down by two or one, we were going to go for the field goal, because we knew Morten was going to nail it. It was fun for me to watch that. It was fun for me to see how a true professional went about his craft. At the end of the whole train, of all the guys I’ve played with, you played literally the longest of any guy in the history of the world, which is amazing.
382 games, believe it or not. That’s not including playoff games, pre-season games. It was over two years of my life I spent in training camp. That’s crazy to think about, but that’s a fact. One of the things I’m most proud of is people can say, “You’re a dome kicker,” I was a dome kicker. Most of my life I’ve spent in domes but my numbers outside are better than inside. When I was on grass and outside in the elements my numbers were actually better. This is something we presented to the hall for my induction before the meetings in February. We compared my numbers with Vinatieri and with Stenerud who was the only kicker, and my numbers were right there or exceeded and especially on outside surfaces. That’s what I’m most proud of currently.
It’s something to be proud of. You were nails and you were fun to watch and you won a lot of games for a lot of teams. The name of this podcast is called Finding Your Summit. It’s all about overcoming adversity and finding success. Somebody that sometimes takes a time out and they look at somebody like you and they go, “What problems in the world would Morten ever have?” Here is a very successful guy, played 25 years in the NFL, he’s in the Hall of Fame now, but I think it’s relative also to your craft, the craft that you are trying to perfect. When something happens like, A) You get cut, B) You get traded or C) Which is the worst, which happened to me, is nobody wants you anymore and you still have that desire to play. It happens. You’re going through that adversity. Let’s fast forward. You leave New Orleans after thirteen years and now you go to the Giants, the Falcons and some other places. Tell me about that place that you fell in when you were out of football for a year, you knew you could still kick, but nobody was picking up the phone. What was that like day-to-day that frustration that you’re going through?
I think everybody has distasteful situations in their life and it’s how we deal with them that really defines us. The twenty months I’m in a public park when I’m 45 years old, that was a distasteful situation. It was distasteful in ’94 when the Saints said I was a declining player and I left for the Falcons, but I put that to rest. Let’s talk about 2005 when I just left the Vikings. I had a good year with the Vikings. I’m 45 years old and I had no doubt that I was going to play again. Then literally, 2005 turned to 2006 and the phone did not ring for twenty months. Not a year, almost two years. People started looking at me a little weird and saying, “You’ve had a good run, Morten. Get on with your life.” I was 77 points away from becoming the all-time leading scorer in the history of the game. That karat was there and people could say, “That’s self-absorbing, that’s narcissistic to go for that.” I say, “You better have these big goals out there. You better have this supply and reward waiting for you because otherwise, the risk is not worth taking.” The bigger the reward, the bigger the risk. It could have gone terribly wrong. It could have. Thank God for Jim Mora, Jr. giving me a chance there in ’06 in October after the second game of the season where I’m sitting in my basement having a cold one with my neighbor and the Falcons are playing and their kicker is having a bad day. I turned to my neighbor and I said, “I’m switching to water now because the phone is going to ring.” He throws up his hands and goes, “It hasn’t rung for twenty months. Are you ludicrous?”
I also remember I got a call because Jim is my best buddy. You were like, “You need to get on the phone with your buddy,” which I did.
I’m using all the resources and you did, and so did Jim Mora, Sr. You are both hammering him from both sides saying, “What are you waiting on? Let’s go. Give this old man a chance.” He did. He brought me in and I was competing the next day. After I’m sitting in the basement, I switch to water. The next day, I’m in there against three or four flat bellies half my age. It’s mano-a-mano. It’s who can hit the orange stripe in the middle the most. I hit it thirteen out of fourteen times and my biggest decision at that point became, “Do I want blue or black ink on the contract?”
You get the gig. Now, you’re back with the Falcons and I’m down there at a game against Pittsburgh. It ends up going into single or double over time or something crazy. They drag you out there and you go to make a kick. I don’t think you made it, but somebody was off sides.
I made it. It was 35 yards from the right hash.
You remember better than me, but then it didn’t count because there was a timeout or somebody jumped off sides or something happened. You ended up going back in and kicking it. You were the hero, got down, there was all the drama in the game. You kicked the thing. I was running on the field and it was like old times. I was just so happy for you. To go through that and that mental anguish of going out on a Little League field every day and having your trainer who will actually hold the ball for you, I’ve been there. It’s about not giving up, keeping your eye on the ball and then getting after it, and then accomplishing that goal that you want.
It’s about that, but also when nobody is watching. When nobody is watching you, you still got to put in the work. At the end of the day, it’s you putting your head on the pillow. For me, I knew I had to put in the work especially at my age because I knew that when I did get the chance, I had to be ready. I had to be absolutely razor sharp because I could not give them one excuse to say, “We told you so. He’s too old. He’s too weak. He can’t make the kicks. We gave him a chance but.” I never gave anybody a chance to say that because I was literally the best option. I was better than the competition. I earned the right. You earn the right to be great. You earn the right to your personal summit, to use your vernacular. You earn that right by preparing, by working tirelessly towards whatever your personal dream is, whatever it is. If you want to climb on mountains in the world, the top seven or eight summits, you earn the right. You have to be in incredible physical shape. You have to plan. You have to strategize. You work the plan, plan the work; whether you want to be the greatest plumber in the world and be known as the go-to guy when something goes wrong with people’s toilets. I’m making maybe a horrible example, but still, “What do you do in life?” You earn the right to be great by preparing and having passion for it and be process-oriented. If you really immerse yourself in the process within the preparation phase, the result usually is great. If you make the process great, the result is great.
I think a lot of this goes back to where it was about you growing up in Denmark, playing all these sports which made you very well-rounded in handball and soccer and gymnastics and things like that. You treated your body like a temple. You always stretched a lot and you worked on the weights and you’re in good shape. The longevity of your career certainly benefited from the things that you did from day one. It’s funny because you threw out the climbing analogies. I’m 55 years old now and all the guys I’m climbing with are in their twenties. I’m still beating them up the mountain and I do that with a sense of pride and the pride of knowing that when I go into the gym every single day, that I’ve got to work harder than everybody else. Otherwise, I can’t compete and I can’t get up these mountains. That, in some cases, means your life. A similar type of deal for you but in your case, we’re talking about the NFL, we’re talking about the hardest place to be in the most competitive environment. The longevity of staying healthy and then becoming the all-time scorer in the history of the game is just astounding, incredible and great. My hat’s off to you.
Thank you. I would also say that as you get older as an athlete, you train smarter. You get smarter. I made a conscious effort in 1989 when I was 29 years old. I hit what I would call a performance plateau where I had a dip in my own personal standards. It wasn’t a great year but by normal standards, it was a solid year. I knew that I’m either going to get better or I’m going to get worse. I was trying to prolong my career, so that’s when I created my own Team Andersen. I recommend this for anybody that they seek out people that are smarter than themselves in areas that can help them and support them. I picked a guy that was great in the fitness arena, Mackie Shilstone. Everybody in the business knows who Mackie Shilstone is. He’s worked with Roy Jones, Jr. He’s working with Serena Williams right now, a very sports-specific type of guy. He would train me to become a better kicker, not a better anything else, sports-specific. I hired a sports psychologist. I had the best chiropractor. I had the best massage therapist and so forth. All of those people together on my team were what I would call Team Andersen.
You would have Team Pattison. I’m sure you had people that you go to for certain needs, whether it’s for your body, your mind or spirit or whatever. You would just really engage them and be part of that. You would learn to train smarter as we get older and not over-train, but just quality over quantity. I think that’s what prolonged my career is that I really was very structural in the way I approach my craft. I didn’t over-kick. I didn’t kick 300 balls a day. I actually didn’t kick a ball until June 1st. When the season was over, I didn’t touch a football. I would do the movement, I would do lots of other things that were kicking-related, but I wouldn’t touch a ball.
Another guy who has taken that same approach is Tom Brady. With his health and his fitness and his trainers, the guy is playing like he’s 25 years old right now. Who knows when it’s going to end, but it’s the same mentality.
It’s all about inflammation in the body as we get older. Get rid of inflammation. When you talk about heart disease and cholesterol, it’s really about inflammation in the arteries. That’s the problem that we’re having. It’s an epidemic. That goes back to what you’re eating, what are you putting in your body. If you have a clean diet, you’re eating clean and you’re eating things that are anti-inflammatory in nature, Whole Foods and things like that, you just don’t have the same problems that people have when they engage in a high-sugar, high-salt diet and fast food and so forth. You know that because you’ve been a fitness nut since I’ve known you. You can speak on this subject much better than I do.
I don’t know if I can, but I think we’re two birds of the same feather when it comes to health and nutrition and fitness. It just blows me away. You walk in and you see some people what they put in their body and it’s just junk in, junk out, so there’s no surprise.
You’re not going to be able to run the engine at a high rate when you’re feeding it crap. Try to put bad gas in your car, it’s an analogy, but you’ve got to fill your body with the best stuff if you want to be in high-performance business.
That high performance for you landed you in the Hall of Fame. I’m proud of the fact that I got into the high school Hall of Fame and then about six months ago, I was inducted into the University of Washington with my team. It’s a huge honor. I don’t think I’ll be invited to be in the Hall of Fame of the NFL. There’s only a certain amount of guys who they allow in. Actually, you’re the number two. The second guy is Jan Stenerud, who I met at your induction at the Ring of Honor down in New Orleansin 2015. What was that like? I see you on TV. There are seven of you guys that were inducted. You gave just this beautiful speech. I watched the whole thing. You’re in the stadium where it’s just jam-packed. You’re the show. You are being honored and then they go and they do a bronze statue of you that will live in perpetuity. Getting the call, going through the process, standing up there and there’s all this ceremony around it. You’re standing up there with all these other greats too, and there are all these other greats who are in the audience watching you, former Hall of Famers and all kinds of stuff, walk us through that.
The four days in Canton, Ohio far, far exceeded what I had expected it to be. I had been there as a guest of other honorees, Kris Dielman, Will Shields, so I had been to a couple of ceremonies. As a spectator, it’s mind-blowing. Watching all the gold jackets on Friday night doing that gold jacket dinner, mind-blowing. There’s Jim Brown, there’s Roger Staubach, there’s X, Y, Z and so on. There are 310 Hall of Famers in the Hall, about 175 are still living. When you do the numbers, it’s 0.006% of all football players that play that are in the Hall. If you want to go another step and say, “How many kickers?” It becomes mind-blowingly low.
There are two, you and Jan.
Then you got Blanda and Groza, but they played other positions. From an experience point, I have to say it was almost an out-of-body experience because I went through what’s called a Ray Nitschke Luncheon and it’s only Hall of Famers, gold jackets. They closed the doors and nobody else is allowed in there, just the gold jackets. This year, I think we had about 120, 130 guys. They get up and talk and the seven new guys are not allowed to talk. We’re just sitting there and listening. Jan got up and spoke on my behalf, which was beautiful. It was very moving. I’m sitting next to Roger Staubach and here’s Joe DeLamielleure. Just name a legend, he’s sitting right there at my table. I literally just could not wrap my brain around the fact that I was in this exclusive company. It just didn’t make any sense to me. That this boy from Denmark who came over as an immigrant 40 years ago, now has got a bronze bust in Canton, Ohio and a gold jacket that he can wear anytime he wants. He can sit and smoke a cigar and drink a glass of red wine in his skimpies if he wanted to.
You get up there and were you nervous when you were giving your speech? It was very heartfelt. It’s your story and really you were just recounting how this kid came over from Copenhagen and your journey. It was a beautiful story. It was just great to see all the affection, admiration for the people that really respected what you had done.
I worked hard on this speech because it’s a speech that’s important. It’s going to live forever. You will be able to go in on YouTube or on the Pro Football Hall of Fame site and you can just say, “I want to look at this speech,” and it’s there. I didn’t want it to be terribly long. My speech was 19 minutes, 33 seconds. I wanted to tell the story. I wanted to take the listener and the viewer into my story as vividly and as specifically as I could. That’s why I tried to talk about my initial introduction to the game with some humor and tried to just let the people understand from my immigrant perspective how strange I thought the sport was. It’s had over 1.2 million views, so I encourage you to go watch it. I think it’s worth 19 minutes and 33 seconds of storytelling. I wanted to thank people, another thing that’s important. You don’t want to get into thanking 1,000 people, but key people that meant something to you along the way, I think it’s important to mention. Really just tell stories and give people a couple of takeaways. Give your kids a couple of takeaways they can use too, and hopefully the listener can use too.
You certainly thanked your wife, Jennifer, who’s a sweetheart. They zeroed in on both of your kids, which was cool. What a great thing for your kids, as a leader, as a mentor, to inspire them to achieve greatness when they see you up there like that.
Sebastian was my presenter, so he’s actually my seventeen-year-old-boy. We also have Aiden, who’s thirteen. Sebastian was my presenter and he did a really nice job. He wasn’t nervous and he wasn’t apprehensive. I had asked him if he really wanted to do this because it was an important part of the piece and he said, “Yeah, I’m in.” He was up to it. Aiden was great. He declined when I asked him like, “You guys can split it. We can go 50-50 on this thing.” Aiden’s like, “No, Sebastian can do this. I’ll do something when I get to seventeen. We’ll do something fun.” He wasn’t too worried about it. It was just important to include the family. As public as this thing is, it’s also a very intensely prideful moment in a private way because a lot of people are invested in your life for a long time, whether it’s family, friends or coworkers or teammates. Everybody is invested. As I said in my speech, it’s not a me journey, it’s a we journey. I really feel strongly about that.
You’re done with that, you’re back and what are you up to now? By the way, I also heard that you were mentoring one of Jim Mora’s kickers at UCLA, so I’m sure you’re doing some of that.
J.J. Molson has been a lot of fun to get to know. Jim reached out to me just to say, “Do you mind speaking with J.J. and just give him a few pointers and point him in the right direction?” That’s really what mentoring is all about. I have business mentors who helped me along the way, who are able to clarify things that you can’t see because you’re too close to it. I think it’s really important to have just another set of ears and eyes on things that can help you along the way and to give you levity and an objective voice. A lot of times, when you’re in the mud, when you’re in the grind, you don’t see it as clearly. That’s been fun with J.J. and I have kids in Atlanta. I live in Atlanta, so kids that I’m working with here in the high school level. I have pro level guys that I work with and college level guys, all private one-on-one stuff.
J.J. is a good guy. He’s got the leg. It’s just in between the ears for him. He’ll get there. As you know, really anything is all about confidence
It’s about the confidence of owning your workbench and working that workbench, defining the workbench and understanding exactly what you have to do. I told J.J., “You control two things as an athlete, as a high performer. That’s your attitude. That’s your effort. Everything else is white noise.” He’s focusing on things he can’t control. I said, “If you cannot control it, it’s white noise. Don’t waste any energy on it. Just really dial in on what you can control and be as good as you can. Make that positive behavior the dominant behavior.” That’s what you have to do in kicking. It’s a repetitive motion and you have to be able to replicate, replicate, replicate in a dominant fashion under pressure, under duress. We spoke at great length about just how we can free him up to do that. It’s probably going to take me a trip to LA, which I’m not upset about. I’m sure it’s going to take me a trip to UCLA to fine-tune this thing.
Where can people reach you?
My website, MortenAndersen.com, would probably be the easiest place to get me. I’m also on Facebook. I have a Twitter, @Ma2544. I’m not that active on it. It’s fun to go through a lot of stuff on the website. It has old pictures and some of the statistics and also videos of my public speaking. I’ve done some TED Talks and corporate speaking. I’m doing more and more of that. It’s really fun to go out and engage and try to help CEOs and try to help companies reach their full potential and free them up to do what they’re supposed to do instead of getting muddled down with a bunch of white noise. There are a lot of parallels between sports and life and business. It’s really not that difficult.
Morten, it’s been great. I look forward to seeing you out here in LA. We’ll definitely do a game at UCLA. We’ll be on the sidelines together just like the way it used to be down in New Orleans. Many congratulations to you. You’ve always been a great friend to me. It’s just greatly appreciated.
Thanks, Mark. I really enjoyed talking to you.
Have a great day.
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