|Blanda, Stenerud still inspire Falcons kicker Andersen|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 28 November 2007 14:59|
Andersen, the 47-year-old Atlanta kicker who last year became the NFL's career-leading scorer, had been invited to play in a golf tournament Stenerud hosted a few years ago in Bozeman, Mont.
When his plane and Blanda's plane landed a few minutes apart, Andersen took the opportunity to share a car with his two favorite former players.
``It was just the three of us, and all I did was listen,'' Andersen said Wednesday. ``I just sat there in awe of those two guys that I look up to, my heroes.''
Suffice it to say that Andersen is probably the only current NFL player who looks to Blanda and Stenerud for inspiration. But make no mistake about Andersen's reasoning.
Stenerud is the only full-time kicker enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. A 1991 inductee, Stenerud joined football's elite 10 years after Blanda, a former quarterback-kicker, was honored. The Hall's other inductee with a kicking career, Lou Groza ('74), also built his legend as an offensive tackle.
Make no mistake that Andersen would love one day to get a congratulatory phone call from the Hall, but the topic makes him uncomfortable despite holding NFL records for most games played and most consecutive games scored in.
``I'm not thinking about what can happen or what will happen or what might not happen,'' Andersen said. ``What's important right now is helping the team that's employing me by working hard and being successful.''
After all, even though one year short of tying Blanda as the league's all-time oldest player, Andersen isn't ready to look at his career as something of the past. He plans to kick another three years and become the NFL's first 50-year-old player.
As far as Atlanta coach Bobby Petrino is concerned, Andersen would be welcomed back in 2008. In 21 attempts since signing with the Falcons for the third time in September, Andersen has 18 field goals for 54 of his 67 points.
``No question about it,'' Petrino said. ``Once we get to his range, everyone on the team knows we are going to get three points. He amazes me every day.''
At 3-8, Atlanta has little reason to look glowingly on the season as the team prepares to visit St. Louis (2-9) on Sunday. For Andersen, though, being a teammate of guys young enough to be his grown children offers energy he can't get outside of football.
``This is what I love to do,'' he said. ``You have a passion for something and you're allowed back in and you've earned the right to be here. It's so much fun.''
Andersen, a native of Copenhagen, Denmark, can't imagine anything that was more difficult as a football player than sitting out the entire 2005 season without even one phone call from an interested team.
Becoming the league's career scoring leader was atop his list of priorities, so he never lost contact with the Falcons. No franchise owed him more than Atlanta, which advanced to its only Super Bowl when Andersen's 38-year-old field goal beat Minnesota in the 1998 NFC title game.
Finally, after watching Michael Koenen miss six of eight field-goal attempts in the first two games of 2005, Andersen's persistent calls to the Falcons paid off.
The scoring record fell last December on an extra point in a loss to Dallas that pushed Andersen past Gary Anderson and into first place.
The dynamics were less joyful, but arguably just as satisfying, a few years later when Andersen heard Blanda and Stenerud share stories.
``It was the best 30-minute car ride I've ever had,'' Andersen said. ``They talked about life, told jokes, but they didn't really talk all that much about football. I was really humbled. I knew it was going to be one of those special moments.''