By Kevin Alan Lamb
If you think you’re tired of seeing the Lions lose, walk a mile in 20-year-veteran Detroit Lion Jason Hanson’s shoes.
A native of Spokane, home of the Gonzaga Bulldogs (Zags), the Lions’ all-time-scoring-leader (1,967) has witnessed the good, the bad, and the ugly in what amounts to 200 losses, after Green Bay’s Thanksgiving feast.
“It’s good to be competitive again. We’ve shown that we’re a good team, but are we just good, or are we really good? We’re finding out and we have a lot to prove,” Hanson said of the Lion’s recent winning-ways.
“Winning is way more fun than losing, so this is good, but nothing is free in the NFL. There are a lot of teams out there that don’t care about our record. All they know is that they beat us a bunch in the last few years and think they can do it again. We’ve got a road to go before we can wipe away the past,” Hanson told Sportz Detroit Magazine.
The Lion’s all-time-scoring-leader has grown wise in his luscious and lengthy career in Detroit.
“Jason has seen it all. He’s got some of the best work ethic of anybody on the team,” Lion’s Head Coach, Jim Schwartz said from their Allen Park practice facility.
“You don’t survive that long on talent. You do it because of character and work ethic. Jason has all three of those,” Schwartz said.
Currently, Hanson is in pursuit of his 132 point single-season scoring record, set in 1995. Hanson is ninth in the NFL with 92 points (19 FG, 27 PAT), and is the eighth player in NFL history to play in 300 career games.
He is fifth on the NFL’s all-time career-games-played-list, and holds the franchise record for career-games-played, in addition to the most among active players.
“As up and down, and down-right-terrible as the Lions have been the past two decades, we can always count on Jason Hanson,” lifetime Detroit-fan Andy Law said, a 29-year-old from Macomb.
At Washington State, the 56th pick in the 1992 draft set many school records, where he was a teammate of QB Drew Bledsoe.
His laundry list of records includes the highest FG percentage from greater than 50 yards (57.1), which is also a PAC 10 record, most FG from 50 yards or more (20), 40 yards plus (39), most points (328), games with two or more FG (20), FG (63), and PAT (139).
“In college, I used to go back 65 yards and try to burn them. Now, in practice if I was really smoking them I can hit 60-61-62-63 maybe, but we don’t try them very often,” Hanson said to the longest un-recorded FG he has kicked.
Despite all the jokes and references to professional athletes majoring in Television, or Pool-Cleaning in college,Hanson earned his undergraduate degree in Pre-Med.
“Jason is a good dude. I speak to him every time I see him. He offers words of encouragement. He’s been at it for so long. He is a great teammate, and he’s got a good heart,” first-year-Lion DT Nick Fairley said.
To help put a 20-year-career in perspective, #4 is the second Lions’ placekicker dating back to the 1980 season.
He is the only Lion with the team for the playoff runs in the ‘90s, and the unfortunately unforgettable 0-16 season in 2008.
The graduate of Mead High School is tied with Hall of Famers Jackie Slater and Darrell Green for the most consecutive seasons with one team.
“Jason’s been a real source of joy and pride for all of us. He has a tremendous ability and we’re all hoping he is going to be the Hall of Fame,” his high school coach, Mike Mclaughlin said.
“When he was a sophomore he showed up to kick and we had a player ahead of him. He was a backup QB as a senior. I always thought he was a better punter than kicker,” Mclaughlin said.
The lifetime-Lion was honored as a Pro Bowl selection in 1998-1999, and an alternate in 1997, and 2008. With ice running through his veins, it’s no wonder the man has endured winter in Detroit for the last quarter of a decade, delivering 17 game-winning-FG: eight in regulation, and nine in OT.
On December 14, 2008, Hanson passed Morten Anderson for the most FG from 50 yards and beyond in NFL history. Entering 2011, he only missed eight PAT, five of which were blocked.
“It’s big – he’s been through all the ups and downs of the last 20 years. To be able to see his demeanor and how he approaches work every day is a blessing. It’s something to look up to, especially me coming in here and knowing he’s a Christian guy, he’s definitely an inspiration to myself and a lot of guys around the locker room,” WR Calvin Johnson said of his faithful placekicker.
Hanson has earned NFL Special Teams Player of the Month five times, with his most recent coming in September of this season, when he kicked 8/8 FG. He is the 11th player in NFL history to score more than 1,600 points.
“God, we started off winning. If you get the award at least you hope you’re contributing to the win. It’s fun to get those awards,” Hanson said of his latest accolade.
The tenured Lion is married with three children and extremely thankful for his 20-year-career in Detroit.
“A lot of people say they’re blessed, and I say that, and I truly feel that god placed us here in Detroit and we’ve been here for 20 years,” the quiet-leader told Sportz Detroit Magazine.
“To be in one place with the same team with a family: not having to move, getting to plug in to a community, school, church, neighborhood, and friends is a blessing,” Hanson said.
The Hanson’s favorite place to dine is Kruise and Muer in Rochester Hills.
The five-year-captain’s least favorite place to kick is Chicago, and holds a tremendous respect for his fellow kickers in the division.
“The kickers in my division that I play every year,” Hanson offered as the kickers he respects the most.
“Robbie Gould in Chicago, Ryan Longwell, Minnesota, and Mason Crosby. They’re all really good and a guy like Longwell’s been in the league for 15 years and never been to the Pro Bowl. Sometimes we only equate people by if they’ve been to the Pro Bowl, but all the guys in my division are really good,” Hanson said.
The 20-year-veteran’s legs feel good, and with the help of a good ole fashion icing, he believes he’s got some gas left in the tank.
“Yeah, it’s a long way off,” Hanson said of the Hall of Fame.
“For one, with kickers, it’s really hard to get in, in-fact, I don’t know if a true kicker has ever got in, and after that, because of that you have to put up some special numbers. I feel like I’ve kicked well for a number of years, but I think to be in the Hall of Fame there is more to be accomplished. I have to kick at a high level for a number of years,”
“It’s fun when people say that, because they’re fans, but in reality, I better do something special in the next couple of years,” the wily veteran said with a grin.
In 2004, Hanson worked with Sharpie’s Autographs for Education program.
“It’s great to see a lot of these corporations get behind something that’s important and leverage players to these kids. If a Sharpie rep. came in, ‘who cares?’ But if you get a Lions’ player with them they’re excited to hear what you have to say,” Hanson said.
“I enjoy being able to use what little bit of celebrity you have being a professional football player to talk about things that matter. Instead of just ‘hey work on your hoop skills, or work on kicking the ball.’ Who cares? Your brain you can use forever,” a cheerful Hanson said.
Kevin Alan Lamb is a 26-year-old native of West Bloomfield that joined the football team his junior year in high school to avoid basketball conditioning. His greatest accolade in football involved the creation of “Sunday Game,” a 10-on-10 full-contact tackle football game at Keith Elementary in Commerce involving a bevy of eventual multisport collegiate athletes.