NFL has, in recent years, transcended the boundaries of just being a sport played across the US – with games now being broadcast across the world, and tournaments being held in Europe, Asia and elsewhere.
At the recent Betting on Sports America conference, NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee Morten Andersen spoke about how fan engagement with NFL has sky-rocketed in recent years, which can be attributed to the wide-spread roll out of social media strategies.
When quizzed on what more the NFL can do to continue improving its European presence, he pointed out that the internationalisation of the sport will help. He explained: “I think the NFL has done a really nice job of engaging their fan base through social media as everything is changing over time. The most popular sport in America is without question the NFL.
“The NFL has officially taken a stance to “wait and see”, the MBA is all in, the NFL will follow soon I think. There is a huge profit to be made there with licencing fees, and so forth. But as far as promoting the game, the NFL has games in London, they’ve had over 28 games there.
“They’ve had games in Tokyo, I’ve played two games in Tokyo, two games in London, they had Mr Khan with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who has a keen interest in perhaps eventually expanding it into London, who knows what will happen.
“Tottenham Hotspurs with the new stadium, which is a dual-purpose stadium for soccer and american football, that’s all very exciting there. I think it bodes well with the internationalisation of the NFL, the game is alive and well, and we can just be along for the ride and it will be good.”
Andersen is most well-known for being the all-time leader in games played in the NFL, with 382 points scored as a kicker. However during the interview, Andersen explained that the journey to becoming a Pro Hall of Famer wasn’t without its challenges, testing both his will and desire.
He recounted: “In order to tell you how I felt, I have to tell you the cliff note of the story because it was a journey of many many years. I was actually unemployed for about 20 months prior to breaking the record. I spent most of my time in a public park kicking field goals.
“I couldn’t get a call from any team. But I was only 77 points away from being the all-time leading scorer in the game. That was the impetus, that was the motivation for me to really try to continue with will and stubbornness to go for the record. When I got the opportunity, I obviously grabbed it and was then obviously able to accomplish it.
“My most memorable experiences during the game when I broke it – it was just an extra point, it was only 20 yards, it wasn’t a big deal. But the fact that afterwards, my kids were in the audience and I took my jersey off, handed it to them, they stopped the game, they gave me the game ball. I gave my jersey to Sebastian, my first-born son, and seeing his smile … that satisfaction, of the long journey, it finally happened. Lots of emotions, a beautiful moment.”
Andersen’s aspirations to be an NFL kicker is one surprisingly shared by one of England’s most adored and gifted footballers in Harry Kane. The Tottenham center forward, who is preparing for his side’s Champions League final clash with Liverpool, has never hid his desire to one day play in the NFL.
Concluding the interview, Andersen was quick to heap praise on what Kane has achieved in football, whilst also offering him advice on a future venture into the NFL: “Harry Kane is a great soccer player, let’s say that upfront. I respect what he’s done on the pitch. As a viable NFL kicker, that’s like me saying ‘hey I want to be Harry Kane, I want to be on the national team for England’. That’s a bit far-fetched in my opinion.
“He might have the physical skill, but what happens when they turn the lights on and 80,000 people are in the stands and he has to kick the ball between 16ft 8 inches with 11 guys coming at him who are a lot bigger, a lot stronger, a lot faster than he is – he’s going to have some second thoughts. Mentally, it’s really between the ears and I say: Hey Harry, good luck to you!”