You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but it’s a little more difficult to take the coach off the field.
That certainly seems to be the case with Jim Hansen. He surprised everyone by announcing in the spring he was leaving Lincoln Pius X after 32 years of teaching English there to become the outreach coordinator at Sandhills Global, a position he began July 15.
Hansen took the job, however, with one stipulation: that he can get off at 3 p.m. every day this fall so he can get across town in time for Thunderbolt football practice. Monday marks the beginning of his 33rd season as Pius X’s offensive line coach.
“I always wanted to see how my skill set would translate into the business world, and it’s been a good transition,” said Hansen, who was a finalist for the National High School Coaches Association’s national boys assistant coach of the year in June after winning the regional award earlier in the spring.
“We had a lot of assistants leave this past year, and I made a commitment to (Pius X head football coach) Ryan (Kearney) that I’d be here this year. I didn’t want to leave him hanging,” added Hansen, the head baseball coach at Pius X his first 18 years at the school. “I’m just glad I have enough left in the tank to help him out one more year.”
Hansen has been the one constant in Pius X’s rich football history since 1987, which includes four state championships and 25 playoff appearances. While he’s coached the offensive line all 33 seasons at Pius X, Hansen also was the defensive coordinator when the Bolts won three Class B titles in four years (1995, ’97 and ’98). Kearney was a senior starting defensive end on the undefeated 1997 squad.
When Tim Aylward decided to step down as head football coach in 2015 to focus on his athletic director duties at Pius X, Hansen seemed like a natural choice to promote into the position, especially considering the deep roots he’s planted in the community.
Hansen is a walking encyclopedia of Pius X athletic history in every sport, writing a book on it a number of years ago. His wife, Teresa, is the daughter of George Easley, one of the prominent Pius X families through the years. Hansen’s sons Jimmy, Rob and TJ all played for the Thunderbolts.
In 2011, Hansen applied for the head coaching position at his alma mater, Creighton Prep, after Tom Jaworski retired, and was one of the finalists for the job. Hansen, however, thought the right man for the Pius X job was Kearney, an assistant for 12 seasons before taking over as head coach in 2016.
“There’s only been three head coaches in the history of the school (63 years), so this is really a 15- to 20-year commitment that at my age I can’t make,” Hansen said. “I told Ryan (Kearney) when Tim (Aylward) decided to step down that I thought he would be a great head coach and that I hoped he would apply. It’s turned out to be a great choice.”
You have free articles remaining.
By the same token, Kearney is grateful that Hansen has remained on as an assistant, calling him “exactly the person any high school coach would want on his staff."
“He’s Pius through and through,” Kearney said. “He’s extremely knowledgeable, but he’s always looking for new and better ways to do things. Whenever I’ve wanted to change or adjust something, he’s been all for it.”
But Kearney says Hansen’s best strength as a coach is the enthusiasm he brings to the job and how he communicates and relates to the players.
“He has an energy and vitality about him that’s contagious,” Kearney said. “He might be getting up there in age, but he’s young in spirit and that resonates with the kids.”
Hansen does not have a returning starter on the offensive line, so there’s lots of work to be done the next three weeks leading into the season-opener at home against Lincoln East on Aug. 30.
According to Hansen, that’s OK.
“I’m starting a new job, so it only seems fitting that I’ll be starting a new offensive line, too,” he said.
Like every year he’s coached, Hansen suspects he’ll have a restless night leading into Monday afternoon’s first practice. He says that excitement and anticipation of a new season is still there.
“When that’s gone, then it’s probably time to retire,” he said.