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Kid football camp ends

Phil Hansen will no longer be running his youth football camps due to time restraints, budget cuts and new endeavors for the former NFL football player. BRIAN WIERIMA/TRIBUNE

Former NFL football player Phil Hansen is hanging up his popular youth football camp.

The Detroit Lakes resident has run the free Phil Hansen football camp for 10 years, first starting in Fargo, then spreading to Wahpeton-Breckenridge and to Detroit Lakes for the past five years.

But the former Buffalo Bills defensive end says there were a few different factors that went into his decision to not run the camp.

“The NFL is my sponsor, and they’ve been cutting back on the grant,” said Hansen, whose funding was cut significantly from $5,500 10 years ago to $2,500 last year.

“And although that’s still all right, if I can’t put a really good product out there to the kids, then I’d rather not do it,” he said, adding that it gets tough to ask sponsors for money every year to run a good program.

Another change that helped Hansen with his decision is the fact that he has been chosen by the NFL to serve as an ambassador for a new program it has started called Heads Up Football.

“It’s basically the NFL’s answer to parents concerns about the safety of football and concussions,” said Hansen, who will begin training for the program next month.

“I’ll be going out to a couple of different football programs in North Dakota to teach parents, coaches and young kids like fifth- and sixth-graders how to make sure their helmets and pads fit well and the proper techniques of tackling,” said Hansen, who says he’d love to be able to eventually get FM Athletics involved with that program as well.

Heads Up Football was a pilot program last year, and Hansen says the NFL is hoping to get it in all 50 states eventually.

Being an ambassador for the new program will take up a good chuck of time for Hansen, and it’s the time he would have run short on trying to run both youth programs.

Not only that, he says, but Hansen found it difficult to continue improving on his football camps.

“I liked to try to make them a little better each year, and really, I just couldn’t think of anything else, and honestly I think it started to get a little bit stale,” he said. “It just kind of ran its course.”

Hansen says Kim Bettcher and Brent Wolf, the DLCCC employees who helped him put the camp on, were “great,” but too many factors pointed towards ending the program.

“I’ll miss it,” said Hansen, “I enjoyed seeing the kids run around, but the Heads Up Football program will kind of take the  place of it for me, and I’ll still be doing some youth officiating around here too, so I’ll be around.”