The Guy In The Shadow

Phil Hansen was never considered a superstar.  He never made an All-Pro team or the Pro Bowl, despite teammates being elected 49 times during his 11-year career.  He was always in the shadow.  In the shadow of Buffalo’ vaunted K-Gun offense.  In the shadow of future Hall of Famer and all-time sack leader Bruce Smith.  And eventually in the shadow of up-and-coming Defensive End Marcellus Wiley.  That was alright by Phil Hansen.  He just showed up everyday to work and gave 110%.  Hansen was no throwaway player.  Bills GM Bill Polian drafted him in the 2nd round, pick #54 in the 1991 NFL draft for a reason.  He needed someone to play opposite Bruce Smith and take some of the pressure off of him.  Incumbent starter Leon Seals was not giving the Bills what they wanted so Bill Polian pegged the North Dakota State alum to fill that role.  And fill that role he did.  After it was all said and done Bruce Smith had an even 200 sacks for his career, an NFL record.  And the guy in his shadow, Phil Hansen had himself 61.5, good for 87th on the all-time list ahead of such greats as Junior Seau, Greg Lloyd, Seth Joyner, and Dan Hampton.  Not bad for the guy in the shadow.  Phil Hansen only topped the 10 sack plateau once, in 1995 with an even ten, but the opposite defensive end in the lineup tallied over 10 sacks in 8 of Phil Hansen’s 11 years with the Bills, 7 times by Bruce Smith and once by Marcellus Wiley.  Hansen played in 3 Super Bowls, starting 2, and was active for an total of 14 playoff games for the Bills, starting 10 and recording 4.5 postseason sacks.  He started 148 games for the Bills and he was the last player remaining from the Buffalo Bills 4 Super Bowl teams by the time of his retirement in 2001.  Phil was a consummate leader and professional and no other play personifies Phil more than one of his final plays for the Buffalo Bills.  It was 2001, Phils final year with the Bills.  The re-building Bills were 2-12 and all they were playing for was draft position.  The contending New York Jets were in a playoff race with the upstart New England Patriots.  The Jets needed the game to win the division but with the game on the line Jets QB Vinny Testaverde threw a short pass right into the arms of Phil Hansen, who fell to the ground and secured the Bills 3rd and final victory of the season.  It didn’t matter that the Bills were a last place team and he had just cost them one spot in the draft (a trade of Joey Harrington  for Mike Williams by the way).  Phil Hansen played the game only one way…hard and like it was his last.  This Sunday when the Bills add his name onto their Wall of Fame, someone will finally be standing in his shadow.


Twitter @ErikVenskus


About evonsports
30 year old sports enthusiast and aspiring writer from Boston.

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