MIKE O'HARA

O'Hara: Jason Hanson's induction into Lions' Ring of Honor will bring mixed emotions

Posted Sep 4, 2013

During his first official game as a retired player, Hanson will be inducted into the Lions' Ring of Honor in a halftime ceremony, joining the franchise's all-time greats

Jason Hanson should feel at home at Ford Field Sunday afternoon. It's familiar territory, and Sunday football has been as much a part of his life's routine as morning breakfast and packing the kids off to school.

Jason HansonJason Hanson (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

But this Sunday will be different. So different that Hanson isn't quite sure what to feel or know how to react.

Being the focal point of a sellout crowd makes him wonder if he'll feel like a stranger in a place he called home.

Hanson will be an honored guest as the Lions open the regular season against the Vikings.

It is his first official game as a retired player. Hanson will be inducted into the Lions' Ring of Honor in a halftime ceremony, joining the franchise's all-time greats.

He will hear the cheers while wearing a suit and tie and not the Lions uniform he wore with regal distinction for 21 seasons.

His emotions will flow, but in a strange mix that he has never experienced. The short time lapse of his retirement – from the last game of last season to the opener this year – hasn't given him much of an adjustment period.

"It's confusing ... it's interesting," Hanson said earlier this week. "I don't have the separation of years. It's the start of a new season with most of the guys I've played with.

"I just have this feeling of being left behind. It will be neat. At the same time, there's just a hint of strangeness to it as far as on game day on the field, watching everybody I was playing with.

"It seems like the old retired guys, you have a little time before you see them again. It's a great honor, of course."

And well deserved.

Hanson announced his retirement in March after 21 seasons -- all with the Lions -- in which he compiled statistics worthy of being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Among his many accomplishments, Hanson ranks third on the NFL's all-time list with 495 field goals made. In games played, he is first with 327 with one franchise and fifth overall on the all-time list.

Hanson cited a lingering heel injury that he played with last season as a primary reason for retiring. He did not want to devote the time needed to rehabilitate the injury in the offseason so he could perform at a level that would meet his self-imposed lofty standards.

Hanson made one visit to the team's practice facility in Allen Park during the offseason workout program but did not attend any training camp practices.

Immediately after Hanson's retirement, veteran David Akers was signed to take his place. The Lions also brought in Havard Rugland of Norway to take practice reps with Akers.

Hanson fully expected Akers to win the job, which he did, but he followed with interest the development of Rugland, better known as "Kickalicious."

"I knew that Akers, barring anything unforeseen, would be the kicker," Hanson said. "I knew he would do a great job."

Hanson was intrigued by Rugland's background and the YouTube video that introduced him to American football fans.

"It's great for him to get a foot in the league -- excuse the pun," Hanson said.

"I don't know any of the new players personally. I tried to keep an eye out, and at the same time keep away. It's not my team anymore, so I stay away."

Hanson has worked out and is still close to his playing weight of 190 pounds, but he hasn't kicked a football since the final game of last season. He made a field goal and three extra points in a 26-24 loss to the Bears at Ford Field.

Hanson turned 43 in June. That's old for an athlete in his first year of retirement but young for the average working person. He has done some public speaking but hasn't decided what career opportunities he might want to develop in the future.

"I haven't pursued anything," Hanson said. "I had some different speaking opportunities, whether they're church settings or for men's groups and youth groups.

"There's also some typical speaking for different events once in a while. I have enough to keep me busy in the fall."

Kicking for the Lions is what used to keep Hanson busy in the fall. When he retired, Hanson did not nail the door shut on ever kicking again, but he made it clear that coming out of retirement was not in his plans. Neither was kicking for any team except the Lions.

He said he's had calls from other kickers telling him he should come back, but he hasn't gotten the itch to return.

The question he hasn't been able to answer is how he'll feel when the season starts for real.

He'll get the first indication Sunday.

"I was never afraid to work, but at the same time I don't think I miss the daily grind of camp," Hanson said. "The biggest thing about being finished is kind of the pressure of an NFL season, being a kicker, isn't there. That feels good in a sense.

"Kicking is unique, and the pressures that goes with it on a weekly basis are unique.

"I think about game day. That's a little exciting -- a new season, the Lions are going to be good. Where else am I going to step out in front of 65,000 people every week? That's the adjustment that everyone who's played football and finishes goes through.

"That's what I'm going through."