By Ashley Dunkak
CBS DETROIT – The late William Clay Ford Sr. owned the Detroit Lions for 50 years, and for 21 of those years, Jason Hanson served as the team’s placekicker. While many fans blame Ford for Detroit’s persistent losing in the last half-century, Hanson said that longtime players like him put the responsibility elsewhere.
“Everyone who has played for the Lions for a significant amount of time that had some investment with the team has some guilt, and I share that immensely, that we were not able to be part of a team that brought him a championship,” Hanson said, “and I think every player feels that, and it’s genuine. It’s not just I feel bad for me and for the guys. I feel bad for Mr. Ford and the Ford family for something that they deserve.
“I never once thought that Mr. Ford had let us down,” Hanson added. “I think many of us that cared knew that we were letting him and the family down. That’s a great disappointment that we share.”
Like other former players who have spoken since the news of Ford Sr.’s death Sunday, Hanson recalled a personable owner who treated his employees with kindness and fairness. Hanson remembered one time in particular when Ford asked about his golf game. Though Hanson was petrified to answer the question because of how it might be perceived that he golfed during the season, he appreciated Ford’s taking a genuine interest in him.
“We weren’t products,” Hanson said. “We weren’t a product to him. We were people. That’s how I remember Mr. Ford. I know for a fact not many people get to say that about their owner.
“Not many people get to say that about someone who was important and influential, even iconic, in their city, in their industry, and get to say that that person was personable to them and cared about the people,” Hanson continued, “and I get to say that, so very special to have played for him.”
Hanson said there were times in his career he expected an address from Ford, a reminder to players that they were making him look bad. Ford never did that, however, and Hanson said Ford did not because it was not about him.
The Lions announced Monday that ownership of the team will pass to Martha Ford, and Bill Ford Jr. will remain as Detroit’s vice chairman. Hanson heartily approved.
“That’s great news,” Hanson said. “The team hasn’t played well and doesn’t have a good record, so that falls on [the Fords], but I truly believe that they want to win, they’ll do what it takes to win, and they have, and the people underneath them, frankly, from players up, have been disappointing for them.”