Nov. 8, 1999
by Lisa Deaver, Fresno State Media Relations
Jeff Hanna loves pressure. How else is there to explain it? He is 9-11 (.818) on the year in field goals, including a perfect 9-9 inside 40 yards. He has been just short of automatic this year for Fresno State.
But what's his secret? How can he focus when 40,000 people turn deathly silent awaiting his next field goal attempt? How does he handle it when the fate of a game-winning drive rests on his shoulders?
To Hanna, that's nothing. This is a guy that lives for pressure. Consider for a moment his plans after graduating from Fresno State this year with a degree in health science: He will pack up his belongings, move back home to Pomona, Calif., and begin to study fire science, which will lay the path for him to become a firefighter ? his dream job. Field goals in overtime to lead the Bulldogs to victory? That's nothing when compared to scrambling into a burning building to save the lives of those trapped inside.
Any doubts he had concerning whether he was physically tough enough to handle the rigors of becoming a firefighter were answered in the Oct. 30 game at Tulsa. On the game's first play, Hanna flew in to make a tackle on Tulsa's John Mosley and separated his shoulder. After lying on the turf for several minutes, Hanna limped off the field and backup kicker Tim Osborn began to get loose. But he proves it takes more than a separated shoulder to keep him off the field. After getting the shoulder popped back into place, he returned to kick field goals of 31 and 35 yards and two extra points.
"I was in a lot of pain when it was out," Hanna said. "But once it was put back in, I felt instant relief."
"Two field goals and two extra points, one from 35 yards, with a dislocated shoulder," head coach Pat Hill said. "That's was a great effort."
The success Hanna showed against Tulsa was no fluke. He currently ranks tied for first in the WAC in field goals made (9) and is fourth in the conference in scoring (55 points). But despite all the success he has had, and the game he had against Tulsa, his mind is on only one thing.
"We just need to take things one game at a time," Hanna said. "We've got a good thing going right now. But each game is do-or-die. We can't afford to have a bad week."
Hanna credits much of his success to his mother, Dina. A driving force in his life, her words are never far from his memory.
"She has always been there to tell me to stick with things," Hanna said. "Plus, she comes to just about every game."
And stick with things he did. After redshirting his first year at Fresno State, he did not see any action until his sophomore season in 1997 when he did such a solid job he took over for incumbent Johan Lyssand. After starting slowly that season, he finished up nailing 12 of his last 14 kicks, including seven in a row and a career-long 51-yarder against Air Force on Oct. 18, 1997. He has been the Bulldogs' kicker since.
"I always knew that if I continued to work hard and pay my dues, things would pay off in the end," Hanna said.
Three regular season games remain for Hanna, with a possible bowl game to follow. The outcome of one of those games may come down to Hanna's ability to come through in the clutch. Just excuse him if he happens to scoff at the pressure. For now, 40,000 people holding their breath waiting for the outcome of what he does will have to serve as pressure until he can dart in and out of burning buildings.
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