The Lions opened the press conference Tuesday officially announcing Jason Hanson’s retirement with Hanson taking pictures with his family, ownership, front office personnel and coaches in front of a table that had three Lions helmets.
The helmets signified the transformation of the Lions logo over the last 20-plus years Hanson has been the team’s kicker.
Lions president Tom Lewand felt it appropriate to add one more helmet to the table, though. Lewand called to longtime equipment manager Dan Jaroshewich, who is now the director of sporting events at Ford Field, and out from a bag came an old single-bar helmet that Lewand claimed was Hanson’s rookie helmet brought out of storage.
Even Hanson, 42, had a laugh at that one.
It’s not too far-fetched to believe the old helmet could have been Hanson’s -- he’s been kicking long enough.
Lewand also announced that Hanson will be the first non Hall-of-Fame member to join the Lions’ “Ring of Honor” at Ford Field where his name will be placed among Lions legends Barry Sanders, Lem Barney and Bobby Layne in a ceremony set for this upcoming season.
When Hanson took the podium, he joked that when he came into the league in 1992 as a second-round draft pick of the Lions, then running back Barry Sanders used to call him “Baby J”. Hanson’s nickname in the locker room last year -- "Pops".
That’s quite a journey.
“For a whole generation of Lions fans, there’s been one kicker,” Lions vice chairman Bill Ford said. “No matter how disappointing the season, you could always count on Jason Hanson doing his part and then doing a little bit more.”
Hanson did it better and longer that most ever have and this page could be filled entirely with his accomplishments. Those, along with the impact he had on his teammates, Lions fans and the Detroit community were all celebrated Tuesday.
“It’s quite a joke actually that I went from kicking balls in my back yard to playing 21 years in the NFL,” Hanson said. “Few get the chance to play sports for a living and fewer still get to play it for as long as I did.”
Ford, Lewand and head coach Jim Schwartz talked glowingly of Hanson's accomplishment over a 21-year career – all with the Lions.
Then Hanson held serve just like he’s done with the media for so many years in the Lions locker room. He was thankful and funny and even emotional when talking about his wife Kathleen and their three children Ryan, Jessica and Luke.
“My biggest, and most important thank you to my wife,” he said fighting back tears. “We shared all the highs and lows of an NFL career together and I believe that our marriage is stronger after 21 years and that might be the best stat. So, she gets most of the credit for that.”
Hanson went on to thank all the people that had a hand in his career and reflect upon one of the greatest careers for a kicker in the history of league. He did so in typical Hanson style, with a comedic touch on it.
-- “I do want (Bill Ford) to know that you made me a better athlete, though, in that you specifically made me a stronger athlete. I want to say that because early in my career I realized that you were coming into the Lions weight room to work out. You were pulling out the players’ workout cards and you were specifically pulling out mine. I want you to know that made me really mad because obviously my workout card wasn’t intimidating to you. So, I made sure that I could lift as hard as I could after that. So, thank you for that. That’s a true story.”
-- “In football, a kicker gets the glory and he gets the blame, but as every NFL kicker learns throughout his career, it’s always the holder’s fault.”
-- “When I first came into the league, I could use a hair dryer and I would bring a hair dryer into the locker room. Chris Spielman absolutely hated it, legitimately. I don’t use a hair dryer anymore.”
-- “I remember my first year in my first season, we went up to Green Bay and we lost. In my last season, I remember we went up to Green Bay and lost. That’s a joke, people. That does make me mad though.”
--“I also wanted to unretired when we signed David Akers. I said, ‘No, not David Akers,’ because David is good. The Lions are fortunate that he’ll be here. Can I say he’s going to do my job? It’s his job. He’ll do well and I think I’m really jealous of him because I think he’s going to step into a good situation and he’s going to do some good stuff. So, yeah, that was like 84-percent joking there.”
Hanson epitomized what it was to be a professional football player. He did everything 100 percent and always did it the right way.
“You took him for granted because you had so much confidence in his ability to do his job,” Schwartz said.
It’s no coincidence that most of the staff at the Allen Park headquarters came to the press conference, which is a rare occurrence.
Hanson talked a little about regret and that it will always bother him having never helped to bring a championship to Detroit.
“I mean this sincerely,” Hanson said. “In a profession where you are paid an enormous amount of money to perform at the highest levels and to win, I always have regretted all the misses, all the screw-ups, the missed kickoffs, the losses.
“Man, they’re painful. It’s not fun to lose and I regret my part in that. Everybody wants to be perfect and nobody is, but I look back at those and it’s like, ‘Dang, if I would have made that or done this.’ So, I definitely, as a blanket statement, that would be my biggest regret.”
Hanson said continued problems with his heel due to plantar fasciitis, which first developed last year on his planting foot ultimately determined that it was time to retire.
“High-performance kicking, that’s what Frank Gansz, my first coach always told me. This is the high-performance business,” Hanson said. “You perform at the highest levels or you’ll be gone. That’s what this is and I’m not sure I can do that anymore and that’s why I retired.”
In a career that went from "Baby J" to "Pops" Hanson proved the test of time and will be always be considered among the all-time Lions greats.