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Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Joselio Hanson has worked his way from a reserve player at St. Bernard high school to an impact player in the NFL. Getty Images
Joselio Hanson started his football career at St. Bernard and a lot of hard work has him playing on Sundays for the Philadelphia Eagles.
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor
Joselio Hanson never let the “freaks of nature” players stop him from achieving his goal of high stepping into the endzone in the NFL like Deion Sanders.
The Inglewood native grew up a huge sports fan, but football did not start out as his passion.
“I was a basketball fanatic, that was my first love,” Hanson said. “I loved the Lakers and I thought I was going to the NBA, but I stopped growing.”
At 5’9″, it would be tough to make it as a basketball player, but that is the right size for a cornerback. Hanson did not play organized football until his freshman year at St. Bernard, and he did not have the stellar career like many blue chip athletes.
“I like to say that I’m a late bloomer,” Hanson said. “I’d say it was around 12th grade when it really clicked and I started playing a lot better. Actually, in the 11th grade I didn’t even start, I didn’t play.”
When Hanson got his chance he made the most of it, and he’s been doing that ever since. He helped lead St. Bernard to the State finals his senior year, and then he moved onto El Camino Junior College.
Hanson had a great experience at El Camino, where he was a standout cornerback, and he was a good student.
“I don’t think it was that tough, and it got easier for me,” Hanson said. “Because in high school it was like everyday we had six periods and you had to go to all of those classes everyday. In college you have classes every other day, or you go to some classes three days a week and some classes two days a week. It got easier for me to manage my grades and I was getting all As and Bs.”
El Camino prepared him for the next level, which was Texas Tech University.
“When you go to junior college coaches come from everywhere,” Hanson said. “Coaches came from Arkansas, Illinois, Texas Tech. If you go to a good junior college, like El Camino, that is known for having a good football team, a lot of colleges are going to come to check guys out.”
Texas Tech was looking for a cornerback, and Hanson was the best on the team at that position, so he packed his bags and headed to Lubbock, Texas.
Hanson did not have any issues playing in front of a much larger crowd.
“People think that the more people who are there, the more nervous you’ll be,” Hanson said. “But that pumps me up. Like I’m about to put on a show in front of all of these people.”
After excelling at Texas Tech, Hanson looked to move on to the next level, and he didn’t let any negative reports stop him, he just needed to get his foot through the door.
“They said I was too small, not fast enough,” Hanson said. “They were saying all that stuff back in high school. They’re always trying to knock you down. But coming out into the NFL, they want the freaks of nature. The 6′ foot guys running 4.2s (40 yard dash time), the strong buff guys. But I just kept pushing.”
Hanson was not selected in the 2003 NFL Draft, so he signed as a free agent with the 49ers, which happened to be the team that he rooted for growing up.
Being an undrafted free agent, Hanson was pretty much on the bottom of the totem pole, and he did not get the same treatment as the high draft picks.
“They’re a lot more relaxed out there in training camp,” Hanson said. “Everyday was like the game to me. You have to always be on point. All I wanted to do was make plays everyday and I did. They saw something in me and kept me around for two years.”
Heading into Hanson’s third year there was a coaching change, which does not bode well for many on the bubble players. Hanson was released and out of the NFL in 2005. But that did not stop his dreams of making it big as a professional football player.
Hanson headed to NFL Europe, where he was one of the top players for the Frankfort Galaxy, who won the World Bowl title that year.
Several NFL teams noticed Hanson’s great play, and the Philadelphia Eagles then gave him a chance. But it was an uphill battle once again. Hanson was signed in July, but many of the players had been practicing since April, so he was behind already. He was back to making plays everyday in practice just to make the roster. The Eagles liked his abilities so he was able to stick around.
“The first couple of years I’d come in when players would get injured,” Hanson said. “I don’t wish injury on anybody, but you know, it worked out great for me. Guys would go down and I’d come in and play against guys like TO (Terrell Owens) and all the big name receivers, and I’d do well. So that propelled me to the next level. When they wanted to make changes they felt like I was a player, and they signed me to a good deal.”
Hanson comes off as a humble person, and when he said “good deal” he was really downplaying a five-year, $21 million contract.
Hanson earned that contract by working hard and never listening to any detractors. It also helped when he returned a fumble for an 87-yard touchdown in week 17 of the 2008 season against the Dallas Cowboys. When he got to the endzone he danced like Deion Sanders. He had reason to celebrate. The victory sent the Eagles to the playoffs.
Hanson has some good advice for anybody wanting to reach their goals.
“Stick with it and don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it,” Hanson said. “And have faith in God. Having a relationship with God really helped me out. You have to pray about it and things will come true for you.”
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