Hansen's inside football job at Stanford worth a fortune

Stanford inside linebackers coach Peter Hansen played quarterback in high school and tight end in college. The Palo Alto high grad is now coaching defense. Photo by Dennis Elkington/

Across the street from where he went to high school, a place where he played for and coached with his father, Peter Hansen is helping the Stanford defense make an impact this season as the team's inside linebackers coach.

Stanford's defense is off to a great start, having allowed a total of 13 points over the first two games in wins over San Diego State 31-10 and USC 17-3.

"It always feels good to beat USC,'' Hansen said Wednesday after practice as the Cardinal prepared to host UC Davis on Saturday at 11 a.m. "We take pride in small numbers on the scoreboard.''

Hansen graduated from Palo Alto High in 1997 after playing for his father, longtime Paly football coach Earl Hansen. He played his college ball at Arizona, where the 6-foot-8, 240-pound quarterback was moved to tight end.

He also saw time with the celebrated Arizona basketball team, a group that included Luke Walton, Richard Jefferson and Gilbert Arenas.

"I got good seats for games sitting with the team on the bench,'' Hansen said.

He coached with his father at Paly from 2004-2007, a time period in which the team won two Central Coast Section championships, defeating Oak Grove 23-21 in 2006 for the CCS Open Division title, and beating Menlo-Atherton 14-7 in 2007 for the Large Schools championship.

"It was a lot of fun,'' Hansen said about that time, coaching with his father. "I learned a lot football-wise and got to coach side by side with my dad. We could talk about work at home.''

After helping the Vikings to that second CCS title, Hansen made the move across El Camino to Stanford, where he served as a strength and conditioning intern and as a defensive assistant to Vic Fangio.

When head coach Jim Harbaugh and Fangio left Stanford for the San Francisco 49ers, Hansen went along as a defensive assistant. He worked with inside linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman one year, then with outside backers Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks for two more.

That experience stood Hansen in good stead when he returned to Stanford as inside linebackers coach in 2014, a season in which the Cardinal finished second in the nation in scoring defense and third in total defense.

The role for inside linebackers is different now than it was in the days of four-man fronts and a single middle backer.

"The style of offenses are different so guys have got to be a little more athletic,'' Hansen said. "They've got to be faster than old-school middle linebackers. But also they have to do a lot of the same things, like taking on fullbacks and tight ends. San Diego State comes to mind, so does our own offense. It's a combination of all worlds.''

One of his former pupils at Stanford, Blake Martinez, is now playing for the Green Bay Packers. Hansen said that current standout Bobby Okereke, while a different style of player than Martinez, also will have a chance to play on Sundays.

Okereke plays alongside Sean Barton and Mustafa Branch, who have split time at the other inside backer position.

Quite a group of linebackers Hansen has had the pleasure to coach. But how did a former quarterback and tight end end up coaching linebackers?

"My dad got me on the defensive side,'' Hansen said. "On his teams you had to coach both sides.''


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