Phil Hansen’s life has taken him to many different walks of life. Whether it was coming to NDSU as a small freshman, who couldn’t even bench 200 pounds, to being one of the best defensive ends the Buffalo Bills have ever seen, to his current career as a politician, Hansen has done it all. Hansen stopped by the studio to talk about his time at NDSU, some of his accomplishments and to dish the dirt on the similarities between football and politics.
BI: How did your time at NDSU help you?
Hansen: I red-shirted my first year so I practiced but didn’t play. I got into the weight room and started that process. I think I came in at a 185 pound bench-press and I left at 350 pounds. So I made some strides there. I really wasn’t the strongest guy on the team but I made some good progress. The other thing that NDSU provided that I don’t think a lot of other colleges provides: At NDSU, you had to fit into the design of the defense. There were no individuals. Everyone worked on the same technique. Everyone did everything the same way. SAKRT. Stance, alignment, keys, read and technique. That was pounded into your head every time you lined up. Take a positive step. You have your right alignment. You have your right technique. You have all those things. Those things really helped me when I got into the NFL, because everybody was good in college, but once you got to the NFL, everyone was really, REALLY good. (Laughs) So those techniques that I learned from Donavan Larson and the coaching staff at NDSU during my time, really helped me out in the NFL. I was never the best athlete in the NFL. I was never the best athlete on my team. Heck, I was never the best defensive lineman on the team. So those technique things that I could refer back to from college, really helped me out.
BI: What do you think separated you out from the rest when you got to the NFL?
Hansen: The difference for me in the pros was that we had a strength and conditioning coach who was really into nutrition. I bought into that big time. I took my body fat from 21 percent to seven percent. I stayed at the same weight. I guess that was my secret weapon. I had to use every weapon at my disposal. Looking back, I got everything out of myself that I could possibly get in the NFL.
BI: What was your greatest accomplishment in your football career?
Hansen: When I was with the Bills, I remember at halftime that we were getting run on by an offense. Typically in the locker room, you get something to drink and the coaches are in a corner trying to decide what to do about the second half. This particular day, since we were really struggling on defense the coaches were really having some questions amongst themselves. They were arguing. The players were mingling and gathering. We were getting ready to sit down to see what the coaches had to say. We recognized that there were some coaches bantering back and forth… there was a lot of debate back and forth. One of the coaches said, “hold on here. Stop, Ok, we know where Hansen is going to be so let’s go from there.” I was never the best player ever but I was consistent, dependable and accountable. That coach probably doesn’t even remember that he said it but it was something that really resonated with me… I’m a blue-collar guy and I’m there to get the job done. It’s not going to be fancy. It’s not going to be showboat. I don’t have the most talent in the world but you know what you get when you step on the field. That was one of the biggest compliments I’ve ever had.
BI: What does Bison Pride mean to you?
Hansen: I don’t think anyone can really describe what it means. It’s more of a feeling. A feeling of ownership, partnership and camaraderie…
BI: Talk about your decision to go into politics.
Hansen: It’s not something I woke up and decided to do one day. I always kept track of the political landscape. I wanted to do something more than just vote. I believe that it’s everyone’s duty to pass the keys onto the next generation and leave it in better shape than you had it. This is how it manifested in my case. It’s not for everybody, but it’s something that I feel that can make a measurable difference.
BI: Do you notice any similarities between football and politics?
Hansen: The one that jumps out that’s obvious, is teamwork. With the football team, you have to get along or you’re not going to be successful. In politics, whether you’re Republican, Democrat or Independent, you have to get along. It’s more about relationships than where you stand on issues. We need to work together.
Three things you probably didn’t know about Phil Hansen.
1. He has no feeling in three and a half fingers on his right hand. It was hard to manage a football career without feeling in his hand because it gets cold so easily. When he was a kid he accidentally put his hand through a glass plate.
2. Although he’s never attended a Pro Bowl, he was put on the wall of fame at Buffalo in 2011.
3. He is still very active with football. He officiates high school football and basketball and has a sportsmanship and fitness camps around the area that are able to happen because of a grant from the NFL.