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Kiwanis Club President Charlie Seuntjens, left, welcomes former Buffalo Bills defensive end Phil Hansen to Tuesday's regular meeting at the Speak Easy in Detroit Lakes. Hansen spoke about his years as a high school, college and professional football player and the lessons the game taught him about overcoming adversity and looking toward future success rather than dwelling on past defeats. Pippi Mayfield/Tribune

Hansen reveals life lessons learned from years as player

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In 2010, former Buffalo Bills player Phil Hansen finally got to show his kids what he did for a career for 11 years.

Being inducted into the Wall of Fame, he was able to take his family to New York, watch a game, be recognized for his time with the Bills and finally fully answer any questions his kids had about what he did.

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"I haven't gotten a question since (about his football career)," he said.

Hansen came and spoke Tuesday during the Kiwanis regular meeting at Speak Easy.

He talked football from high school to college to professional.

Growing up on a farm in Oakes, N.D., Hansen said when he got to join football, some kids would stand around at practice, talking about how tough it was -- but not the farm kid.

"Gosh, this is fun," he said was his reaction. "This is a reward for my hard work on the farm."

After high school, he was recruited to play football for both North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota. He chose NDSU.

When he arrived, he said they tested the players out, meaning they would see how much they could lift, how fast they could run, etc. When it came time for the 250-pound college freshman to see how much he could bench press, he said it was only 185 pounds.

"It was an embarrassment. I was living up to the stereotype -- a hick from the farm."

He played five years for the college -- and in three national championships -- before graduating and turning pro.

In 1991, the Buffalo Bills selected him, and he spent his career in New York as a defensive end.

"I thought I was going to downtown New York," he said when he was drafted. Instead, "we could be in western New York right here (in Detroit Lakes). Maybe not so cold though."

Before he turned professional himself, Hansen said he had never even seen a Viking game in person.

As a part of the Bills, he played in three Super Bowls. The first was against the Washington Redskins and it was held in Minnesota. He said it would have been great to win since it was so close to home.

Hansen said one of his favorite stories to tell to the kids he mentors -- Hansen holds a free training camp each summer for young boys -- is about overcoming adversity and only looking to succeed in the future rather than dwelling on the past.

During the 1993 playoff game against the Houston Oilers, the Bills were getting beat -- pretty badly. It was 30-something to zero at one point, and of the 80,000 fans, about 50,000 had left the stadium soon after halftime to go back to tailgating.

After halftime, the Bills eventually started to make a comeback and that turnaround has been dubbed, "The Comeback." The Bills recovered after a 32-point deficit to win the game 41-38. It's still the biggest comeback in NFL history.

Hansen said he tells kids, there's nothing you can do with the previous play, just work toward the next play.

"It was a real cool game. It was great to be a part of."

Hansen retired in 2011, and he and his family moved to Detroit Lakes. When deciding where they would move, Hansen said he didn't want to stay in Buffalo because he didn't want to live on the outside of the football organization, looking in.

So, they decided to move back and possibly have a house in Fargo and one at the lakes, where they had vacationed several times and enjoyed their time there.

They had a cabin on Lake Melissa and decided, why not just live in Detroit Lakes full time.

"You can actually live here, too," he said he and his wife joked, because they were so used to just vacationing here.

While he misses his teammates, the rush of game day and the paycheck, Hansen said he doesn't miss the injuries -- which he's had plenty of -- the weight training and practice.

And though he's out of the game -- he owns a landscaping and snow removal business in Detroit Lakes now -- he's not completely out either.

In 2012, he was asked to announce the second round draft picks, he does some officiating for high school and he'd like to do some more announcing.

And, he's always got that Wall of Fame to remind himself -- and his kids -- what brought him to where he is today.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.

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