A Super (Bowl) memory: Dillon resident, former NFL trainer Byron Hansen reflects on proudest football moment (podcast)
As Byron Hansen uses his hands to untie the ropes holding his boat to its dock on Lake Dillon, one shiny piece of hardware is noticeable. While he steers his boat away from shore, the item’s many diamonds beam back a reflection of the late-August Rocky Mountain sunshine.
This piece of jewelry Hansen brandishes may in fact be a first for Dillon Reservoir: A Super Bowl ring on the high-seas of Summit County.
Feb. 3, 2008 is a date remembered in championship lore for fans of the National Football League’s New York Giants. On that evening, the underdog Giants knocked off what many felt was the big, bad evil empire of the NFL, the New England Patriots. It came via a last-minute touchdown-grab by wide receiver Plaxico Burress.
For the Dillon resident Hansen, though, it’ll go down as meaning even more than one serving as the date of one of the two Super Bowl championships for which he received a ring, the other being 2012.
That’s because without Hansen’s help, Burress may not have been put in the proper position on that fateful day to secure that touchdown-winning grab.
“During that week of practice in Arizona, one of our wide receivers sustained a knee injury and wasn’t able to practice the entire week,” Hansen said. “We kept them in the training room and did a lot of rehab and conditioning for him. And 90 minutes prior to the game, we had to make a decision if he should play or not.
And it worked out.”
Up until the day of Super Bowl XLVI in 2008, Hansen spent more than four decades working across the country as an athletic trainer and sports rehabilitation specialist. After graduating from high school football-playing days in Oregon in 1974, Hansen parlayed his passion for football and sports into time as a student athletic trainer for the University of Oregon’s athletic department. And it was his own football injury that inspired him to give sports medicine a try.
“When I was playing high school football, I fractured my tibula and fibula, which in skiers is common, but in football is not common at all,” Hansen recalled. “No one knew how to treat me or what to do, and that experience stuck with me for a number of years.”
After graduating from Oregon with a B.S. in Comprehensive Health Education, Hansen made his way down here to Colorado, studying a masters-level Exercise Physiology and Sports Medicine Degree at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Hansen’s first job at CU Boulder was taking care of the basketball ski and football teams.
Those bygone days working with the athletic training staffs on those old-school football fields was a far cry from the more contemporary experiences Hansen would have with the NFL’s Giants up until his retirement a year-and-a-half ago.
In the 42 years in between, Hansen worked and lived that sporting evolution. It spanned from his time with the athletic training departments at Boulder in the late seventies to a job offer he couldn’t turn down working for the University of Southern California through the eighties. He also worked with the world’s best track and field athletes at the Los Angeles Summer Olympics in 1984.
LISTEN: Dillon resident and former National Football League trainer Byron Hansen chats about his career in college and NFL football and his connection to Summit County
All in all, it was an atypical line of work that enabled Hansen to work with such elite superstars as Marcus Allen while witnessing and working within an industry that saw revolutionary advancements in treating injuries such as torn ACLs.
But it wasn’t a torn ACL that Hansen and the Giants staff had to deal with on that fateful Feb. 3, 2008, Super Bowl Sunday. Rather, it was a sprained MCL that the wide receiver Burress suffered in his left knee during a fall in a hotel shower just five days before the game.
Leading up to the game, it was on Hansen and his team of other members of the Giants athletic training and rehab staff to diagnose if Burress was fit enough to play. And, if he was, just how he’d be able to play considering the injury and the pain in his left knee.
The Giants and head coach Tom Coughlin had Burress on the inactive list late into Super Bowl Sunday. Relatively late in the day was when Hansen and the Giants training staff informed the head coach that Burress would indeed be a go after all.
What Hansen and the rest of the Giants training staff had realized in working with Burress pregame was that the wide receiver couldn’t cut to his right on that bum left knee. So, when out there on the field, if anything, he’d have to plant his right leg into the turf at University of Phoenix Stadium and create separation to his left.
Mere hours later, with the Giants 13-and-a-half yards from the endzone with 39 seconds remaining in the game, New York trailed New England 14-10. Hansen watched from the sideline as Burress created separation from Patriots defensive back Ellis Hobbs at the 9-yard-line via a hard-plant of his right foot into the turf. With Hobbs leaning the wrong direction, Burress looked over his right shoulder to the sky to easily reel in a teardrop-fade from Eli Manning.
Truth be told, that route was one of the few patterns in the red zone the wide receiver’s knee could have allowed. For Hansen and the Giants staff, this check-mate move versus the Patriots and head coach Bill Belicheck was sweet redemption for an excruciating Super Bowl loss to the Baltimore Ravens seven years prior.
Making it even more sweet was the fact that Hansen had worked for the Giants franchise dating back to 1987. But until 1998 he helped the team remotely, before he and his family packed their bags and moved cross-country to New Jersey to work full-time under head coach Jim Fassel in 1998. As such, Hansen didn’t receive Super Bowl rings for the Giants’ Super Bowl titles in 1987 and 1991.
By that fateful moment in 2008, though, Hansen was long-tenured as a staple of the Giant staff.
So this Super Bowl win was different. It truly was a championship Hansen could own through-and-through. It was a win for which Hansen received perhaps the most revered of all hardware in the world of sports, and hardware he sports proudly whenever he takes his boat out onto the crown jewel water body of Summit County.
“That was probably the most memorable highlight of my career,” he said.
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