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Community reacts to Earl Hansen’s retirement

Published December 10, 2013

A part of the Palo Alto High School community for 26 years. Four Central Coast Section championships.  Two state championship appearances. One state championship victory. As an athletic director, football coach and physical education teacher, Earl Hansen has made a name for himself.

After the announcement of his retirement on Dec. 2, The Paly Voice decided to catch up with a few people who have experienced Hansen’s prowess first-hand.

“It’s hard to imagine the campus without him,” said math teacher Arne Lim, who has been a colleague of Hansen’s for much of his 29 years at Paly and reported to Hansen as an assistant coach for badminton. “He has been here for so long that people who haven’t been here as long just don’t know anything else.”

While he is known especially for his accomplishments as a coach, Hansen is an important part of the overall Palo Alto community, according to Lim.

“He has a presence about him that makes your eyes just want to go there, and you want to say ‘hi’,” Lim said. “He has a charisma that is very inviting and makes you want to get to know him better.”

Senior quarterback Keller Chryst agreed that Hansen was more than a football coach.

“He was such an impactful person, not only in the football program but the whole school,” Chryst said. “Everyone knows who he is and what he has done.”

Hansen cared deeply about his players and students, according to Lim.

“He can motivate, he can encourage,” Lim said. “But honestly, he cares so much about the kids. I know that if a kid is messing up in my class and he’s on the football team I can tell Earl and he will take care of it. And that lets the kid know that there is more than one adult looking after them, not just as an athlete but as a student.”

Hansen brought his caring nature to football as well, according to Chryst.

“He just knew how to relate to every player no matter where they were from, no matter their background,” Chryst said.

Former Paly student and football player Erik Anderson, Class of 2013, appreciated Hansen’s ability to positively impact players, too.

“He taught his players to be men and hold themselves accountable for their actions on and off the field,” Anderson said.

Spencer Drazovich, also a former Paly student-athlete, Class of 2013, agreed that Hansen had a profound affect on his players.

“He pushed each player to reach their full potential,” Drazovich said.  “I grew a lot as a player and a person during the time I played for him.”

Hansen was also able to nurture an excellent football program, according to Drazovich.

“Hansen brought a winning tradition to Palo Alto, and made the football program a perennial championship contender,” Drazovich said. “In the three years I played under Hansen, I never went into a game expecting to lose, no matter what the level of opponent. He expects his teams to be league champions every year, and he expects his players to rise to that challenge.”

Both Anderson and Drazovich were a part of the 2010 Paly team, which won the CCS title and went on to earn a 15-13 victory in the Division I state championship.

According to Drazovich, the reputation Hansen established went beyond Paly.

“Under his tenure, every school was scared to play the Palo Alto Vikings,” Drazovich said.

He had a way of motivating players and pushing them to improve, according to Anderson.

“He simply taught an excellent level of football that a majority of programs cannot teach,” Anderson said. “He had many ways of stressing to us that we needed to be the best that we could be.”

Chryst also reflected on Hansen’s skills as a coach.

“I wouldn’t be the player I am today, and I know a lot of other players wouldn’t be the players they are, without Hansen,” Chryst said. “He knew so much about the game.”

Yet he was more than just a coach. Lim reiterates that Hansen’s job went beyond just football.

“He is not only a great coach but a saving grace for a lot of kids,” Lim said.  “There are a lot of players who probably would have had a much harder time going through high school if they hadn’t stuck with him.  He helps you go even further than you could ever believe. That’s just the kind of person he is.”


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