It has been a big few days for NFL Hall of Fame player Morten Andersen.
The former placekicker became a United States citizen last week, after nearly 40 years living in America since he left Denmark.
Recently, Andersen spoke exclusively to us-bookies.com about how the NFL is growing each year across the Atlantic Ocean, as well as many other topics ahead of the Hall of Fame game this weekend in Canton.
"The NFL will continue to grow in Europe," Andersen said. "I played the Raiders at the old Wembley Stadium in a pre-season game to promote the NFL in the late 80s or early 90s. We were in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow, all over the United Kingdom. The Jacksonville Jaguars owner has ties to Great Britain, as well as several US owners having ties to Premier League teams. I think the globalization is great.
I would love to see a team in London, I think that would be fantastic. I think we have four games this year in London. When I went to the international games as an ambassador, at the new Wembley, there were jerseys of the teams playing, but there was a plethora of other jerseys. It was like a big party for the NFL, not just the two teams playing, just everybody out there showing their colors. It was a kaleidoscope of colors, which never happens in the US at an NFL game because you have allegiance to one of the teams. You would seldom see a fan wearing a Raiders jersey at a Falcons game when they were playing the Saints."
Of course, the primary sport in England is also football, but of the association kind. Andersen grew up playing soccer in Denmark, but ended up switching sports when he came to America as an exchange student in 1977. His strong leg earned him a scholarship to Michigan State, and the rest is history. The new kicking is something that he had to work hard on, but eventually it worked out, and he went on to become the all-time leader in NFL appearances (382 games).
"The biggest difference between soccer and NFL kicking, is the lift and trajectory of the ball," Andersen said. "It took me a while to understand the importance of the planted foot and to get the foot ahead of the ball. It’s almost like a strike down in golf. It’s the same on a field goal to strike down on the ball, which is different from soccer when you need to lean back a little bit to get the height.
"You want to get lift on the ball, so that was the initial challenge. In high school and college, you have a tee, but once you get to professional level, you’re kicking off the ground. The swing to the ball needs to be more linear than the soccer technique. The perfect strike on the ball is get the rotation on the ball correct. Originally, to understand the dynamics I had to teach myself and it was a case of trial and error.
"An example was when I met with former soccer legend Henrik Larsson, in a competition where I was shooting with a soccer ball, and he was trying to score a field goal. He was surprised by how difficult it was and saying how he couldn’t get the lift on the ball. He was used to having his plant foot behind the ball, instead of in front of the ball."
The kicking game has changed since he first broke into the league, with distance and accuracy records falling all the time. Andersen credits a couple of improvements for the this.
"The K-Ball has come in which is a specific ball for the kicking situation," Anderson said. "The balls they use now are nice and fat, which makes for a bigger sweet spot. But I also think the old 50-yard kick is now seen as the 40 yards, and the new target is the 60-yard kick, which is like the old 50 yards. Everything is evolving, and the more success you have in practice on long distances, the better you’ll be.
"Having a long snapper in each team makes a massive difference. Previously, they would come on for fourth downs and that’s all that he did. In the past it used to be the starting centre or the back-up. That has changed and helped ramp up the consistency of kickers.
"I was lucky to play with a designated long snapper for most of my career and it’s a huge reason why guys are better today than ever. Now you can train whilst the game is on. Before you’d be lucky to get four or five snaps a day, but now you can get an hour if you want to train together. You’re going to get better with that chemistry."
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