Courtesy of Minnesota Vikings

NFL Record Setter

On the Metrodome sideline in Minneapolis last October, Gary Anderson waited, as he always had, for his opportunity. In the fourth quarter his team, the Minnesota Vikings, had taken a 28-27 lead against the Buffalo Bills. With 1:04 left on the clock, he was sent on the field to seal the game. It was a chip-shot. From 21 yards out he split the uprights. The game stopped.
      With that field goal, Anderson tallied a total of 2,004 career points—2 points more than George Blanda’s career mark—to become the National Football League’s all-time leading scorer.
      To put the accomplishment in perspective, Anderson broke a 26-year-old record that took Blanda 26 years to establish. “I was definitely thinking about the record during the game and before the kick,” he says. “Especially because so many people had made so much of George Blanda’s record. People thought it was one of the unreachable records in sports.”
      Anderson removed his helmet and met his sons, Austin, 11, and Doug, 10, as he headed back to the sidelines. He took both boys in his arms for a hug. “It capped a perfect day,” says Anderson, who had more than 20 family members and friends in attendance to watch him surpass Blanda.
      In 1998 the former Syracuse All-American became the first kicker in NFL history to record a perfect season, 35-of-35 on field goals and 59-of-59 on extra points. He scored an NFL-record 164 points that season, only to miss the opportunity to play in the Super Bowl when, in the NFC Championship game against the Atlanta Falcons, he missed his first kick of the season. The 38-yarder would have sealed the game and the Vikings’ first trip to the Super Bowl since 1977.
      Though Anderson developed his kicking ability playing soccer in his native Durban, South Africa, he didn’t kick his first field goal until he was on the Syracuse campus. In fact, Anderson’s first game for the Orangemen was the first game of American football he’d ever seen.
      Ultimately, he scored 198 points as an Orangeman and set a school record with a .974 field goal percentage, converting 18-of-19 attempts as a senior. But it’s the winter workouts at Manley Field House that stand out for Anderson. He recalls being greeted by the cold, snowy winter mornings as he walked from his room to the workout sessions at Manley. “We were doing football drills,” Anderson says. “Running in place. Diving to the ground and then getting back up again. I remember saying to myself: ‘What is a South African soccer player doing, diving in the snow at football practice, at snowy Syracuse University?’”
      From the snow at Syracuse to a 19-year pro football career to the NFL record books, Anderson has kept it all in perspective. When the Pro Football Hall of Fame contacted him about donating the record-breaking ball, he declined, saying his sons will keep it. “They’ll have it for the rest of their lives,” Anderson says. “And we’ll always have that moment to share.”

—Jerry Barca

 

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