There was no bigger surprise in the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame’s Class of 2017 than kicker Morten Andersen, who never made it past the top 10 in his previous three tries as a finalist. But this year was different, with Andersen so startled to be named one of the five modern-era inductees he described his reaction as “a crying fest.”
That’s nothing extraordinary. It happens all the time. But how he was told doesn’t, and it’s a story that bears repeating.
Lucky for us, Andersen is here to do just that, with the NFL’s career scoring leader recalling on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast the moment he was notified that he was a Hall of Famer.
“It was a long wait,” said Andersen, who, like other finalists, remained in his hotel room until he was delivered the news. “I might have been in the room for about two hours. You guys must have run a little long (we did) because we were told between 4 and 5 (p.m.) we would know something, and at 5:30 I’m still sitting in the room, wondering if everybody forgot and everybody left — thinking: ‘Did the buses leave? Did I just kicked off the list? What is happening?’
“The guys who didn’t get in … they were supposed to leave at 5. And it’s past 5 now. (And I’m thinking), ‘Well, I didn’t get a call. It’s got to be good news. But, on the other hand, we were told from 4 to 5. And now its 5:20 . And now it’s 5:30.’
“And then finally, bang, bang, bang …”
Hall-of-Fame president David Baker was at his door. Baker annually visits inductees, telling them shortly after votes are tabulated that they’ve been elected. At 6-feet-9, Baker is bigger … much bigger … than Andersen, and he doesn’t just knock on hotel room doors. He pounds his fists into them.
“I’m winning in life right now. I’m not Charlie Sheen. It’s good.”
So when Andersen opened the door … well, let him continue.
“I couldn’t help myself,” he said. “I opened the door, and I go, ‘Room Service? You got my club sandwich, Dave?’ He laughed. And then he gave me a big hug. But he forgot to tell me about the social media restriction. And he had already closed the door after we had talked a little bit.
“He bangs on the door again. I open it. He looks at me really seriously, and he goes, ‘We made a terrible mistake. I just got the word. I got the wrong door.’ And I thought … What? You’re kidding me. No, no, no, no. He winks at me, and he says, ‘I’m just kidding you. I’ve got to get you back for the room service comment.’
“It was pretty good. But it was emotional. I mean, it was a crying fest.”
An all-decade choice twice, Andersen was the most qualified of this year’s candidates. Not only was he the NFL’s career scoring leader; he was the career scoring leader for two franchises – New Orleans and Atlanta. But there was a feeling among some voters that, if he didn’t reach Canton now, this might be his last best chance – especially considering the list of qualified candidates approaching in future years.
“I hadn’t given up hope,” Andersen said. “I had support. Now it takes 80 percent (approval). It’s not hard to figure out if there are 48 (voters) in the room what that number is. But I was concerned because I also knew who’s coming along in the next two, three, four years.
“Having not made it to the final 10 … ever … there was real concern by me that this could be my last legitimate chance, or I maybe would be disappearing into the abyss. So I breathed a big sigh of relief when that knock on the door came. It would have been real tough and difficult to come back from that because I don’t want to say of a ‘stereotype’ against specialists … ‘reluctance’ maybe is the better word … a reluctance by voters to acknowledge they belong in the Hall. It could have been a very uphill battle for me.”
But it won’t be. There are no more battles. Morten Andersen won the war, the second placekicker in the history of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and now … well, now he’s not only going to Canton but the crown prince of Denmark – his native country – has invited him to visit.
“I’m winning in life right now,” said Andersen. “I’m not Charlie Sheen. It’s good. It’s good to meet the future king.”