Detroit Lakes MN – Around 100 players from various parts of the country suited up for Super Bowl 53 tonight, and none of them were North Dakota natives. In fact, the number of North Dakotans that have played in the super bowl is surprising.
Tens of thousands of players have donned an NFL uniform, but only a select few make it all the way to the super bowl. Of those, only two have played in the Super Bowl and been North Dakota natives and one of them hails from Oakes.
That would be Phil Hansen. Hansen grew up in the tiny town of Oakes. His father, a farmer, made him and his brothers and sister work on their 4,000-acre farm. At one point in the early 80’s things were so bad, the family literally ran out of money and had to start selling.
“We sold everything and kinda started over and then built up the farm again. Interest rates in the 1980s, just kinda, and we we’re just one of lots of people who got in trouble with inters rates and couldn’t be solvent at that time so we had to sell everything,” said Hansen.
Football was never work to Hansen, and he excelled at it…winning three national titles at North Dakota State before being drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 1991.
“I didn’t know I’d go in the second round, I mean I was thinking maybe mid to late rounds, I’m a division two guy, that was kind of where they projected me, but Buffalo took a chance on me in the second round and it was a good place to go. It was a good fit,” said Hansen.
He says Buffalo and its blue-collar, lunch pail lifestyle was a perfect fit for him, as opposed to going to a more glitzy city like Miami or Los Angeles.
“They really accepted me, blue-collar like you said. I really fit in, and I think of all the other places I could have went, I’m just really glad, umm Buffalo fit me well.”
Hansen would be part of three bills teams that made the super bowl four straight years. He tells me playing in that first super bowl, which happened to me in Minneapolis is an experience he’ll never forget…
“A fairytale couldn’t have been written better, North Dakota State, you go to the closest place that has an NFL franchise that you could win a super bowl. It was all set up to be perfect, but then we lost the game, so that throws a little wrench in there,” said Hansen.
Hansen would play 11 seasons for the bills before retiring in 2001. He now lives in Detroit Lakes and runs a small business. He says that he wishes just once, one of those Bills teams would have finished the job.
“I would give up the opportunity to go to two of those Super Bowls to have won one of them, to say, hey, at one point in your life in your NFL career you were the best, you were on top of the world,” said Hansen.
Now if you’re wondering who the other North Dakotan is who played in the Super Bowl…that would be Offensive Lineman Mark Slater…he was born in Crosby and played for the Eagles when they lost Super Bowl 15 to the Oakland Raiders in 1981. But that was his only super bowl compared to Hansen’s three.