Gary Anderson

Gary Anderson

The NFL's all-time leading scorer talks about performing under pressure

  • By: Stephen Camelio
Growing up in Durban, South Africa, a coastal city on the Indian Ocean that boasts the continent's busiest harbor, a teenage Anderson stalked Durban's golden beaches in search of bluefish, jacks, permit, sharks and just about anything else that inhabited the coastal waters. But fishing wasn't the only activity that kept him busy. The son of a former professional soccer player, Anderson excelled at both soccer and rugby. After high school he moved to the States, where he attended a Philadelphia Eagles tryout camp and caught the eye of one of the coaches from Syracuse.After four years of kicking field goals for the Orangemen, he was drafted in the seventh round of the 1982 NFL Draft and has since played for the Steelers, Eagles, Vikings and Titans. The four-time Pro Bowler is the NFL's all-time leading scorer, and in 1998 he became the first NFL kicker to go an entire season without missing a field goal or an extra point. Off the field his favorite pastimes are spending time with his family and fly-fishing, usually doing both at the same time. FR&R talked to Anderson shortly before he retired from the Titans at the end of the 2003 season. STEPHEN CAMELIO: Rumor has it that the last two years they had to pull you off the river to come back to football. GARY ANDERSON: The [2003] season had already started and I was fishing with some buddies up on the Frying Pan River in Colorado. In the early afternoon my agent called my wife, Kay, and told her the Tennessee Titans were interested in me. I didn't want to miss the Blue Wing Olive hatch so I told her I would call her back later. After I caught some more trout I talked to my wife and we decided if it was the right situation then I would come back. That's how I ended up with the Titans. Last year the same thing happened with the Vikings. But I really think they are going have a really difficult time getting me off the stream this year. How did you get started in fly-fishing? I knew that fly-fishing was really the most skillful type of fishing, so I always wanted to try it. A friend of mine who is one of those guys who travels the world fly-fishing, took me up to the Lake Erie tributaries to do some steelhead fishing. I caught my first fish right as my buddy was about to grab my wrist to fix my casting technique. As he put his arm around my shoulder, I hooked into my first steelhead and said, "Get away from me!" As soon as I fly-fished a few times I absolutely fell in love with it and now, some 20 years later, I'm one of those guys who travels the world fly-fishing. Where do you like to go? I am fascinated by remote places. This summer my family and I went on a rafting/camping trip in a really remote area of western Alaska. I enjoy that whole feeling of being in an isolated place on a river that has a lot of fish that haven't seen a lot of flies. For that reason, I would love to fish the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia that I've read so much about. Do you go back to South Africa to fish a lot? I go back but usually not to fish. I've been talking to Frontiers International Travel about possibly leading some fishing trips to a couple spots down there. The Seychelles Islands, which are right off the coast, have become a wonderful bonefish destination. There is some good fly-fishing in on the mainland in South Africa as well that would be fun to check out. How about going after some of those famous South African great whites with the fly rod? I'm not sure anyone has invented a fly rod that can handle great whites, but I do have a great shark story. I actually went to the Tortugas with a friend of mine, Tom Gessner. Just the two of us on a big boat pulling a flats boat. One afternoon I was fighting a monster tarpon, maybe 150 pounds, and a huge hammerhead swam in front of the flats boat. I had been fighting the fish for about a half hour and had the tarpon about 15 yards from the boat. Suddenly Tom yelled, "Watch out!" as a giant hammerhead dived bombed the tarpon and flipped him up in the air. The shark circled around but missed the tarpon again. Then, with water flying everywhere, the shark came about two-thirds straight out of the water with the tarpon in his teeth. The tarpon looked like a minnow in his mouth. It was the most incredible display of nature I've ever seen and it is something neither of us will ever forget. Your family didn't make that trip but I hear fly-fishing is your family pastime now? I have two teenage boys and they have become pretty capable fly fishermen. My favorite family time is when I am on the stream with them every summer when we go to Montana. I can't think of anything better that a dad can do with his sons. I've let them come along at there own pace. At eight years old their attention span wasn't the longest. But it's been neat to watch how they've gone from fishing an hour a day before going off to throw rocks and catch bugs to where as now they fish all day. While in Alaska this past summer my youngest son Dougie, who was 12 at the time, wouldn't put his rod down. He is an absolute fishing nut. What about your wife? I introduced Kay to the sport and she has come to love fly-fishing as well. She roughed it with the boys and me this past summer in Alaska. She loves the challenge of fly-fishing as well as the peacefulness and beauty of the surroundings. Most of all she loves all the time we spend together as a family sharing something we all enjoy doing. And now you and your wife have started a business to help other families have the same kind of family-fishing experiences? Yeah, my wife Kay and I have started a company called Perfect Season (Web site: hometown.aol.com/gaperfectseason), named after my '98 season and the fact that it is always a perfect season to fly-fish. The first partnership we have formed is with Frontiers International Travel to host father/son fishing trips. Along with teaching the kids how to fly-fish we will also teach them to respect their natural surroundings so that they will be able to take their kids fishing when the time comes. Having played in Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Tennessee you always seem to be close to some good fishing. Yeah I still go back to Pittsburgh to do some steelhead fishing. I've been doing some research on good tailwater fisheries down here in Tennessee. One of the neat things about coming to play with the Titans is that our head coach Jeff Fisher is an avid fly fisherman. After I signed my contract he told me he wanted to talk to me in his office. He closed the door and said, "I am thrilled to have you on the team and my office door is always open in case you want to talk to my about anything, especially fly-fishing." He even has a fly fisherman screensaver. How does fly-fishing fit into your life as an NFL football place-kicker? It really offsets the kicking. A lot people say my job is the most pressurized job in all of sports. Sometimes I stand around and don't do a whole lot for three hours and then they want me to go out and win the game with two seconds left. When I go fishing I am very focused. I really concentrate, and by doing that I am somehow able to get away from football. My friends are all successful businessmen and it does the same thing for them. Plus there are so many facets of fly-fishing-nymphing, dry fly, saltwater, etc.-that I really love about fly-fishing. Also, just like kicking, I love the challenge of it. You're always thinking. If you are not catching something then you do something different. Fly-fishing is the most skillful thing I've ever done in my life.