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Jeff Kolpack, Published September 16 2011

Kolpack: Phil fits the Bill as Hansen gets much-deserved honor

He sacked John Elway, Dan Marino and Steve Young and recovered a Brett Favre fumble. Defensive end Phil Hansen spent his entire 11-year NFL career in Buffalo, and it was home away from home.

It always will be, and the team and fans will make sure of it this weekend when the former North Dakota State star will be inducted into the team’s Wall of Fame. They honor just one person from the organization per year, and here’s the scope of how big it is: His name will be in large letters just above suite level at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Holy cow.

“That’s what I said,” Hansen said.

He’ll be just the 23rd player on the stadium’s “ring of honor” joining the likes of O.J. Simpson, Jim Kelly and Bruce Smith. He’ll be honored for his on-the-field excellence in a special ceremony at halftime of Sunday’s Bills’ game against the Oakland Raiders.

Those of us in the media business who have been around him for many years would vouch for his off-the-field presence, too. If you want the real truth to how real of a human being an NFL player is, you go to the beat writer.

“He’s a first-class guy,” said Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News, who covered the team all 11 of Hansen’s seasons. “He’s somebody you want to take into the jungle with you. He was the true professional from the day he walked in until the day he left.”

He never disappeared after a game (except the last game of his career, when he didn’t want anybody to know he was retiring until the next day). The Buffalo media inducted him into their own Wall of Fame of sorts, taking Hansen out to lunch after he retired.

It may sound trivial, but in the world of media and professional athletes, that’s a big deal. The number of Bills players who received that treatment stands at less than five.

“They don’t do that for everybody,” Hansen said. “It was mutual respect. When we lost, I still knew I had to talk to the media.”

Gaughan said he remembers Hansen as somebody who treated people right, whether it be teammates or fans. He was a true Buffalonian in part because he stayed there in the offseason.

He was a regular in the community, whether it be at a local restaurant or at a charity event. Buffalo appealed to Hansen because in a way, it was the Oakes, N.D., of the NFL.

The stadium was in the suburbs, not downtown somewhere. The people are blue collar and that’s the way Hansen approached the game: He tried to outwork people.

When he was drafted by Buffalo, his first vision was it was something like New York City.

“Buffalo is a long ways from that,” he said.

On Sunday, in front of his family and 73,079 of his friends, his Bills career will be stamped. Forever.


Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia