2016 NFL Season

Anderson empathizes with fellow kicker Walsh

Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh throws the ball to a defender as they practice blocking the ball during the afternoon practice on the third day of the Minnesota Vikings training camp at Minnesota State University in Mankato on Sunday, July 31, 2016. (Pioneer Press: John Autey)

Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh throws the ball to a defender as they practice blocking the ball during the afternoon practice on the third day of the Minnesota Vikings training camp at Minnesota State University in Mankato on Sunday, July 31, 2016. (Pioneer Press: John Autey)

By Chris Tomasson, St. Paul Pioneer Press

MANKATO, Minn. — If anyone knows what Blair Walsh is going through, it’s Gary Anderson.

Anderson botched a critical field-goal attempt for the Minnesota Vikings in the 1998 NFC championship game against Atlanta, a key reason they failed to make the Super Bowl. He has since offered consolation, and advice, in an hourlong phone call to current kicker Blair Walsh.

Walsh missed a 27-yard field goal with 22 seconds left in frigid conditions in Minnesota’s 10-9 playoff loss in January to Seattle.

“We talked (in May),” Walsh told the Pioneer Press on Wednesday. “Gary was so successful in the league for so long. He just kind of had some good advice on how to handle everything. It means a lot that somebody as qualified, and as one of the league’s all-time greats, would reach out to me, and it was nice. … Gary, he’s all class.”

Walsh said Anderson told him to “just continue to be myself and be confident and reassured me about how good I am, which I truly believe.”

Walsh has received calls from a number of notable former placekickers since his miss, including Morten Andersen, the NFL’s all-time leading scorer, and Seattle’s Steven Hauschka, who was on the winning side during the game played in minus-6 temperatures at TCF Bank Stadium.

Before his miss, Anderson had made all 35 of his field goals, and all 59 of his extra points, during the 1998 regular season — the first time an NFL kicker had never missed on an attempt. But with the Vikings leading the Falcons 27-20 late in the fourth quarter, he missed a 39-yard field goal and Atlanta won 30-27 in overtime to end the 15-1 Vikings’ season.

Anderson, then 39, spent six more seasons in the NFL, four with Minnesota. Walsh said it inspires him that Anderson, second in NFL history in scoring with 2,434 points, was able to bounce back so well.

“It shows it can be done,” said Walsh, entering his fifth season. “He’s one of the league’s all-time greats, and I can’t stress that enough. If Gary can bounce back from it, I can bounce back from it.

“It takes a certain person to have that mentality, but I think the thing that Gary and I share is that going into those two kicks, both him and I had really good careers here so far. So I think it will be nice to be able to rely back on the career I’ve had here and the career I’ll continue to have.”

Anderson lives in Canmore, Alberta, and is a spokesman for the fly fishing industry in the area. He has a website, garyandersontheperfect

season.com, named after his 1998 regular season.

Walsh said the conversation was generally lighthearted. He said that more than 17 years after his missed kick, Anderson has maintained a good attitude about it.

“Oh, yeah. He’s a naturally funny guy,” Walsh said. “We talked on the phone for a while. He’s just a good guy. He gave me some good, solid advice that I’ll think about.”

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