Let’s just say when it came to being drafted by the Detroit Lions, Jason Hanson could have punted.
Instead, though, the recently retired kicker spent 21 seasons in the Motor City, establishing NFL records with most career seasons and games with a single franchise and the most field goals of 40-plus yards and 50-plus yards.
For Hanson, it was all about “leading where you are; leading where you are called.”
That’s the message the prolific kicker shared with alumni gathered at Calvin’s second annual Business Partners Awards Luncheon in September. The event honors business leaders who have supported Calvin by hiring student interns and graduates, serving on committees and boards, donating to scholarship funds, and teaching and mentoring students in other ways.
Hanson was on hand as the keynote speaker, sharing lessons he had learned on the field since assuming his role as the team’s kicker in 1992. After sharing stories about the ups (playing with the likes of Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson) and downs (going an NFL-worst 0-16 in 2008) of being a professional football player, he discussed leadership and how very few leaders are heroes. “Leaders are ordinary people who do what they are called to by God in a particular time and place,” he said.
Hanson also emphasized leading by following, a role he often found himself in, being “a 180-pound football player in a 300-pound league.”
Finally, Hanson stressed the importance of leading while losing. “It’s difficult to trust God and lead well when you are losing,” he said. “It was fascinating to see what losing did to some of my teammates who came from successful programs and were brought in to change things in Detroit. They were leaders who started not showing up. To lead and lead well during times of difficulty is a witness to the God we serve.”
Hanson spoke to the sold-out lunch crowd, who were also there to recognize Calvin alumni Jim Gordon of Gordon Food Service as the 2013 Corporate Business Partner honoree, as well as Milt and Carol Kuyers, Elsa Prince Broekhuizen, and Linda McFadden as 2013 Outstanding Partner Award honorees.
These individuals and organizations were recognized for “going above and beyond in their selfless service to Calvin College and its business program.”
“We hope to bring our business community together to honor and celebrate God’s faithfulness through our business partners and to hear a speaker who connects their faith to their work or to business more broadly,” said Bob Eames, director of the Calvin Center for Innovation in Business and Calvin business professor. “Jason Hanson’s message on faith and leadership at our event was like a game-winning field goal!”
Because Hanson spoke without the requisite speaker’s fee, Calvin will offer a scholarship in his name next fall to an incoming pre-med (Hanson’s college major) student with demonstrated financial need.