With the news of Cougar legend Jason Hanson's selection to the Pac-12 all-century team as kicker, I thought we should reflect on his terrific career. A lot of younger Cougar fans probably know him as a the long-time kicker for the Detroit Lions, but his WSU career was something to behold.
The 1988 WSU Cougars was my first experience in following a college team as a 12 year old. Right away I knew we had something special in the walk-on freshman kicker from my hometown of Spokane. Somehow, Hanson managed to complete his career at Mead high school without earning a scholarship offer. Of course, a few years later there would be a recruiting battle for his younger brother Travis with UW winning out. As in a lot of other cases, betting on the bloodlines did not pan out with the same results.
Hanson immediately made a huge impact for coach Dennis Erickson's squad. He nailed 15 of 16 field goals as true freshman, including two 50+ attempts in WSU's classic upset of #1 UCLA in the Rose Bowl. Was a first-team freshman all-american selection by the Sporting News. Hanson was just getting started.
His sophomore year he hit a 58 yard field goal and four more from 50 yards out. He ended up connecting on 21 of 27 attempts and was named to nearly every single All-American team in the country. He was also the USA today college athlete of the year for the state of Washington.
His junior year he added punting to his responsibilities and managed to be first-team all-conference as a punter and kicker. He managed to hit seven of nine field goals from 50 yards or longer. He capped off his senior year and WSU career by again making the All-American team as kicker and nailing a 62 yarder against UNLV. He ended his college career as the all-time NCAA leader in field goals over 50 yards and 40 yards. His kick against UNLV was the longest in NCAA history without a tee.
With Hanson as my first experience as a college kicker, it's definitely been somewhat of a letdown ever since. Sure Drew Dunning, Andrew Furney, Kyle Basler and others have been terrific, but it's hard to compete against the gold standard of college kickers. I feel very lucky to have witnessed his four glorious years in the Palouse.
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