The news is out. Jason Hanson, 38, has signed a four-year deal with the Detroit Lions, presumably keeping him in place until his likely retirement.
If Hanson does decide to retire after his 21st NFL season, he will be sorely missed by the Lion faithful, and it is highly unlikely that we'll see another No. 4 jersey in Honolulu blue again.
The Lions have not been littered with superstars throughout their history, their abysmal draft record contributing to that. Hanson doesn't get a lot of looks from around the league, because he plays on a perpetually sub-.500 team.
Therefore, people don't know that he broke two NFL records last season, or that he sits at seventh on the NFL all-time scoring list, or that he holds the Lions franchise record in points (1,747), field goals (406), extra points (529), and games played (271).
Though it is NFL blasphemy to say such a thing about a kicker, one could make the argument that in terms of skill, longevity, consistent performance, and team loyalty (the Lions drafted Hanson in 1992, and he's never played anywhere else), Hanson may be the best player in Lions history.
He is, at least, easily the best kicker in Lions history, and in the elite tier of kickers in the NFL all-time.
Though kicker is a marginal position, and a kicker's number is unlikely to be retired on any team, Hanson is an exception if ever there was one.
He has played alongside Barry Sanders and Wayne Fontes, is one of the only players to remember the Lions' last playoff game, and just re-signed with the team after a winless season. He has been the unofficial face of the franchise, the only constant when everything else was spiraling out of control, for 17 years.
Get your fill of No. 4, Jason "Thunderfoot" Hanson, while you can. Once he's gone, he'll leave some incredibly accurate shoes to fill, and nobody will see that instantly recognizable jersey again, except along the walls of Ford Field.
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