ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Jason Hanson never got the thrill of making the winning field goal in a playoff game. He never felt the pressure of kicking in a Super Bowl.
Those moments don’t happen when you play on as many lousy teams as Hanson did during his 21 seasons with the Detroit Lions.
But Hanson, for personal reasons, felt just as much pressure to make an overtime kick against Chicago during the Lions’ 3-13 season in 2002.
It came down to this: Make it and see the birth of his youngest son, Luke.
Miss the kick and miss the birth.
His wife, Kathleen, was on bed rest during the pregnancy of their third child. She stayed back with family in Spokane, Wash., and had a Caesarean section scheduled for a Monday morning after the Lions played on Sunday.
It was a 1 p.m. game at Ford Field in Detroit. The only flight Hanson could get back home was scheduled to depart around 6 p.m. The stadium is no more than 30 minutes from Metro Airport.
Hanson’s worst fear came true — the game went into overtime.
The Lions, much to Hanson’s delight, won the toss and quickly moved into field-goal range.
“It’s a 48-yarder not just to win but it’s to see my kid’s birth,” Hanson recalled Tuesday during a news conference to celebrate his career. “If I miss, most likely I’m going to miss my flight.
“I’m glad I was numb at the moment I kicked the ball because that was too much pressure.”
Hanson considers it one of the most memorable field goals of his career.
“I literally made it (for his flight) minutes before they closed the door,” Hanson said. “I made it back to see Luke be born the next day.”
Hanson, who said the main reason he retired is because of a nagging heal injury to his (left) plant foot, went out with a laugh. He delivered an entertaining, comedy-filled retirement speech.
”When I first came to the Lions, Barry Sanders would call me ‘Baby J,’” Hanson said. “I think he called me Baby J because I just looked like a little kid.
“My nickname on the team this last year was ‘Pops.’”
The Lions announced that Hanson will be added this season to their “ring of honor” — the Pride of the Lions — at Ford Field. He will be the only one who isn’t already in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Bill Ford Jr., the club’s vice chairman, and coach Jim Schwartz both made arguments for Hanson as a Hall of Famer even though there’s only one full-time kicker, Jan Stenerud, who’s been inducted.
Hanson didn’t want to discuss his Hall of Fame credentials, but he strongly believes that kickers need to be recognized.
“Give them a separate wing in the Hall of Fame,” Hanson said. “I don’t know how you can ignore it.
“Guys who have done it well should be recognized. I definitely think the NFL’s got to come to grips with kicking.”
Hanson’s resume is filled with consistency but lacks those big pressure kicks in the postseason that everybody remembers.
Maybe the voters will give him partial credit for the game-winner to see his kid’s birth.