FOXBOROUGH – Earlier this week, 32-year-old punter Chris Hanson touched on his beginnings in the game of football, his outside interests, and what life was like growing up in Georgia:
When did you start playing football?
“I didn’t start until my sophomore year in high school. I always grew up playing soccer. I played high school soccer, and our defensive line coach was our soccer coach. One year during soccer, the end of my freshman year, he said ‘Hey, we need a kicker, do you want to come out and kick footballs?’ I said I would, but told him I didn’t want to do anything else other than kick. I went out and kicked field goals, kicked off, and punted. By my junior and senior year, I started getting scholarship offers and started playing other positions, receiver. I went on to college, played at Marshall and had a fun time there, playing with some great guys like [Randy] Moss and [Chad] Pennington. I was a free agent coming out of college into the NFL.”
It was an innocent start, considering you were a soccer player first…
“I’m a man of faith and I believe God has a plan for each and every one of our lives. As long as we humbly serve and be faithful to everything he’s about, I think he has an ultimate plan to prosper us and for our future. I think back in high school there was a reason that my coach came to me, and everything that happened through college and the NFL, I just feel like I was meant to be a punter, meant to be put in this position to be a light to those who might need something to look up to.”
Where did you grow up?
“I grew up in Coweta County, Georgia, a small town called Senoia. It’s one traffic light. You blink and you miss the whole town. Keith Brooking, the linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons, lived a mile down the road. He was my long snapper in high school. I went to East Coweta High School, and played soccer growing up, did BMX growing up, the bike riding stuff. My family was real active. We stayed outside a lot, didn’t watch much TV, because we weren’t allowed to.”
“I have a brother and a sister. My brother, Bryan, and my sister, Donna, they’re both younger than me. We got along great. We had our times growing up, but ultimately it came down to us being brother and sister and we had good times.”
How do you most remember your Marshall years?
“Marshall was fun. I went there and wasn’t expecting to get a full scholarship. That was definitely a blessing. Getting to play football at a pretty good school – we were I-AA my first two years and then went up to I-A my junior and senior year — and to have the success we had was awesome. Any time you’re in a locker room playing with a group of guys that have one ultimate goal in mind, it’s always fun to play with those guys. Personally, I was dating my wife long-distance at that point. We had met back in high school and during the offseason I’d travel back home, driving to Georgia to see her on weekends. We dated 10 years before we got married in 2001.”
What are some of your impressions of the New England region?
“We love the team up here and the ownership. [Bill] Belichick has done a great thing up here. The guys in the locker room are unbelievable. There are a lot of core guys in this locker room that know what it takes to be a champion. That aspect of it, when I came in, it made it easy to fit in. Like I said, it’s easy when everyone has an ultimate goal and everyone holds themselves accountable. As for the region, we like the fall weather. The winter is a little different because we’re used to Jacksonville. But when the leaves change, you can’t beat the scenery. And my boys love the snow. So we’ve enjoyed it up here. At the same time, we enjoy going home in the offseason and letting the boys see family.”
Hobbies outside of football?
“I enjoy playing golf. I enjoy spending time with my pastor back home, we get together and do things. My wife and I are active in our church at home. Most of the time in the offseason, you can find me on a golf course, playing with Steve [Gostkowski] or [Matt] Cassel or Marcus Pollard down at home, or Rodney Harrison. I get together and play with the guys and I think it’s a great way to experience a fellowship with guys and get to know the real guys. Here we just know each other through football. But when we can get away from football and get to know each other, you create that relationship. I think guys do that well up here – when football is over, guys still get together and hang out and create that bond and trust in each other. I think it helps on the field and the locker room.”
What is your handicap?
“I’m probably a 10. Some days I can play really well. Some days it’s really bad. That’s just the game of golf. When you start thinking you have it figured out, that next time you can shoot in the 100s. It’s very humbling.”
Any course you feel fortunate to have played? Where do you play up here?
“Being in Jacksonville for a lot of years, I had the opportunity to play Sawgrass. That was a great course to play. Steve [Gostkowski] and I play a lot up here at the New England Country Club in Bellingham. We enjoy the course. The guys are always nice.”