A punter is like an insurance policy. You have one, but hope you don't need to use it.
The Jets took out a policy in 1994 named Brian Hansen. With a rookie head coach, Pete Carroll, it didn't hurt to have experienced veterans the roster. Hansen had played nine seasons in the NFL with New Orleans, New England and Cleveland, and signed as a free agent with New York mainly because of Brad Seely.
"I was just looking for a team that needed a punter, and Brad Seely was the special teams coach. Brad is from South Dakota, so there was a connection there," said Hansen, who played college football at the University of Sioux Falls. "I really didn't know him, just knew of him. Had played against him several times. He had an interest and, I guess, went to bat for me, and I ended up in New York.
"I'm sure the coach relies on their special teams coach's judgment on those kind of decisions. I'm not sure what they were looking for other than probably performance. At some level they had seen something that they thought they liked. So, I was just excited to play for Pete."
In 1995, Carroll was one-and-done after a 6-10 record and replaced by Rich Kotite. Victories, however, became even more uncommon, which may indirectly relate to why Hansen led the NFL that season with 99 punts, an average of more than six per game.
"For the team's sake, it's not good to have me out there that many times," Hansen said. "But when you get a few more repetitions, you get more involved in the game that way. You're not just kicking sporadically throughout the course of the game; you're kicking on a pretty regular basis when you're kicking that many times."
For the third time in four years, Hansen and his teammates had a new head coach when the Jets hired two-time Super Bowl champion Bill Parcells in 1997.
"I think like everybody else; I was kind of excited to see what he was going to bring and how he did things," Hansen said. "There was certainly an expectation that he had of us and that we had of him. There's an expectation to win, that he was going to do what was needed and necessary and that he knew how to do it.
"I was looking forward to playing for him, and he was a great guy to play for as a veteran. Yeah, he was hard on you, he had great expectations to perform at a high level, but he also appreciated and valued veterans and kind of took care of you."
Well, about that…
"One of the first conversations that I had with Coach Parcells, we were walking off the field and he said, 'You're from South Dakota, aren't you? I was always curious about South Dakota' and just asking what it was like growing up there," Hansen said. "And that evolved into, 'I just want to let you know that I'm going to try to find a young guy to replace you because we need to be ready in three years to make a run at this thing.'
"I was, I don't know, 37 at the time, and he just kind of shared, 'I've seen punters and kickers, they just come to a point where one day they can't do it. They can perform at a high level the year before and then there comes a time when it's just not working anymore. So, I'm going to be looking.'"
In 1998, Parcells apparently felt he found what he was looking for in Nick Gallery and cut Hansen. But after just one game, the rookie was released, and the Jets brought Hansen back. However, seven games later, he was cut again. This time replaced by John Kidd.
The following season, Hansen was traded to Green Bay. "I think there was a little bit of compassion in Bill where I don't think he wanted to cut me again, so he traded me to Green Bay and let them cut me," he laughed.
Hansen would conclude his career by playing in two games during the 1999 campaign for Washington. Five teams – 15 seasons – 212 games – 1,057 punts for a 42.3 average.
"I'm amazed, looking back, that I was able to, I guess, survive that long," Hansen said. "I had the opportunity to play for some really very good and successful coaches. And even with that, didn't have a whole lot of success. I was in one playoff game in those 15 years. I had a lot of years of leading the league in number of punts, so I played for some great coaches but on some bad teams."
Following his playing days, Hansen and his wife, Laurie, made their way back to South Dakota where they've raised their family: two daughters Kaycie and Kelly; a son, Kade; and four grandchildren. Since returning home, Hansen has worked for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and is the state's director.
"I wasn't sure what I was going to do when I was done with football, but I knew that I didn't want to retire and just go play golf and do nothing," Hansen said. "So, I was very excited to have the opportunity. I wasn't sure what I was getting into, but when they described what the position looked like, it was exactly what I was looking to do and hoping to do. I've been doing that for 23 years. Looking back, it's kind of amazing to see what God has done and again amazed that I've been here as long as I have.
"I was a product of the FCA ministry. I had a (college) coach that had a tremendous influence in my life and in the spiritual dimension in my faith. It had a huge impact on me. And then going on to every team that I was on, I had an influence of either a coach or a teammate that challenged me and encouraged me in my relationship with Christ. And so, that's what excites me, that I'm able to be a part of that, in encouraging other coaches and athletes to see the greater purpose in sports."