Then why doesn't everyone kick that way? Because most kickers can't maintain their accuracy doing so. "The further out to-the side you are, the harder it is to control where it goes," says Aaron. "I tried it and had balls going all over the place. I don't know how Jason does it."
The NCAA Football Rules Committee put an even higher premium on accuracy in the off-season by narrowing the distance between the uprights by five feet, to 18'6", the same distance as in the NFL. It did this without a corresponding narrowing of the hash marks, and the resultant tougher angles can now make it harder to kick a field goal in college than in the NFL. Before this season Hanson professed to be unconcerned by the change—when he misses, he said, he misses by acres.
Hanson is devoutly religious, but he's not one to wield his faith like a prohibitionist wielding a hatchet. When it is 6:55 and he is still 15 miles from Freeman High, where he is to be the keynote speaker at the school's spring sports banquet beginning at 7:00 sharp, he is not above flicking on his old man's Fuzzbuster and doing 60 in a 45-mph zone.
"I was asked to speak for a half hour, but I'll cut that short," Hanson tells a gymnasium full of rapt athletes and parents. "I know how these banquets can .drag." Appreciative murmurs. For a 21-year-old he is a polished public speaker, alternately profound ("I see a lot of people who do one thing great, but that's the extent of their greatness, because they've lost a sense of balance in their lives"), self-deprecating ("God gave me an above-average ability to put a ball through a pair of uprights") and fast on his feet. When an escaped two-year-old in a pink nightie kicks a cord out of the wall, causing Hanson's microphone to go dead, he has a good laugh like everyone else and simply raises his voice.
Most important, Hanson is brief. He brings the talk home in roughly 20 minutes and receives a standing ovation. The first person up and cheering is a muscular, crew-cut fellow in the back of the gymnasium. "That was Miles Conklin," assistant coach Ted Lundgren informs Hanson. "He's one of our defensive ends—a bit of a hell-raiser. I guess you really reached him."
Of course Hanson reached him. Conklin likes playing defense and is a bit of a hell-raiser, right? As Hanson sees it, that makes them a couple of kindred spirits.