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Jeff Kolpack, Published March 18 2012

Will Phil fit the bill?

FARGO - Eleven years in the NFL and an

All-American career at North Dakota State will come in handy for Phil Hansen – if it becomes legal to bull rush a legislature and tackle the speaker of the house through a wall at the Minnesota state Capitol.

At 6-foot-5 with an NFL frame, if politics came down to a physical tussle in the trenches, then Hansen is your man, District 4 voters. It isn’t, of course, and the big fella isn’t running for office because he’s a retired pro player with nothing to do.

I’ve traveled enough with Phil over the years in the name of Bison football and know enough about him that he isn’t a one-horse mind with sports. Topics of conversation were diverse and comprehensive.

After awhile – maybe a year or two, who knows – it got to the point where we forgot he even played the game.

And that will be a key to Hansen getting elected, say Mac Schneider and Dave Piepkorn. They are two former college football athletes who successfully won elections – Schneider as a District 42 senator in Grand Forks and Piepkorn with the Fargo City Commission.

Hansen has great name recognition, they say, but that only gets you a foot in the door. If voters don’t like what they hear, they’ll slam it shut.

“I think along with that name recognition comes increased scrutiny with regards to knowing the issues and your motivation for running,” Schneider said. “They want to hear you’re sharing the values of the people you represent. Then I would say it’s a bunch of hard work. Knocking on doors. Marching in parades and meeting as many people as possible.”

Schneider was an all-conference center at the University of North Dakota. Piepkorn started for a national championship team at NDSU in 1983. Not quite Buffalo Bills Ring of Honor material.

“Phil has a tremendous advantage because of his name, but I think people will want to know what he believes in,” Piepkorn said. “The way he stands on issues is what will determine how people feel about him.”

First order of business for Phil is to get a suit-and-tie photo and send it to all media entities. All we had was a mug shot from his Buffalo days that ran on the front page of last Thursday’s paper.

The second order is to convince voters you know more about economic and water issues than quarterback sacks.

“The voters in District 42 could care less whether I played football,” Schneider said. “They care about how I vote and if I return phone calls. When people are considering voting for me next fall, they won’t be thinking about football games. They’ll be thinking about my record and my response in representing the district.”


Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia