Bills Wall of Famer Phil Hansen has been along for quite a few championship runs in recent years as a color football analyst for North Dakota State, his alma mater.
The Bison are a Division I FCS powerhouse, appearing in every championship game since 2011 and winning each year except in 2016.
Hansen will be in Frisco, Texas, on Saturday calling the national championship game that features No. 2 North Dakota State (13-1) and top-seeded James Madison (14-0) at noon.
While it has been a busy week of prep leading up to the game, it hasn't prevented Hansen from noticing that his former team is also along for the postseason thrill ride this time around.
"I saw the videos and how excited the Bills fans were, goodness gracious," Hansen said. "It has been a long time, a long time."
Hansen, who lives in Minnesota and works as a football and basketball official, says he feels less connected to the organization as time passes, but he's been keeping track from a distance of what first-year coach Sean McDermott has been able to accomplish thus far.
"The Bills haven’t been there for so long that it’s fun to be there, but I want them to be able to take the next step and not say we’re just happy to be in the playoffs" Hansen said. "I want them to go win the Super Bowl. This is just the first step because Sean is the right guy in place and they have some great players.
"I’m really happy for them and for the City of Buffalo. I really miss my time there and I’m certainly hoping they can do some damage in the playoffs."
Hansen played in an era where playoffs were all Buffalo knew. He was on the roster for three of four Super Bowl appearances and played in 14 total playoff games with the Bills. The former defensive end still ranks third all-time in franchise history with 61.5 sacks, behind only Bruce Smith and Aaron Schobel. He retired in 2001 and became the 27th member of the Wall of Fame in September 2011.
"I remember people (in Buffalo) talking about their hatred for Miami because in the 1970s they beat them twice a year every year for something like 10 years," Hansen said. "So when I came there and the Bills were going to Super Bowls, that’s what I knew – that the Bills should go to Super Bowls, the Bills should make the playoffs.
"To think that 1999 was the last time. ... I remember after the Music City Miracle game happened thinking, 'OK, we lost but we'll get back to the playoffs next year.' Our team was just gutted after that season for salary cap reasons and whatever the issues were. It was something that for me, you kind of expected to at least make the playoffs, but to think it’s been 17 years since then, I can see where the excitement comes from."
Three years before that loss in Tennessee, the Bills were eliminated in the AFC Wild Card by Jacksonville in a 30-27 loss at Rich Stadium. They play the Jaguars Sunday at 1 p.m.
"It would be a bit of poetic payback for me," Hansen said. "For the players (on this year's team), they need to do what got you there. You don’t re-create yourself in the playoffs."
Story topics: Phil Hansen