Senior football player embraces ghosts of many expectations

treyposeBy: Austin Anderson

A six-year-old boy walks into the Cedar Falls Hy-Vee with his mom on a Sunday afternoon and instantly his eyes light up behind the lenses of his glasses. The boy, wearing a red Cedar Falls Tigers football shirt timidly approached the check out counter and asked, “Are you the quarterback for the Cedar Falls Tigers?”

“Yeah.” The clerk responds to the young Tiger fan.

“That’s always been my dream.”

Trey Hansen is the starting quarterback for the Cedar Falls Tigers, but not too long ago, he was that young fan looking at his idols and dreaming of his future. “Football is my passion,” Hansen said. “It’s my favorite thing to do.”

This passion has been running through the veins of the senior for as long as he can remember. His dad Denny, a former Tiger himself, worked with the Minnesota Vikings when Trey was a kid. From September to the beginning of February, Sundays at the Hansen household were devoted to the NFL. During time outs of the games, Trey would take off across the living room, dive into the couch and attempt to catch the throws from his father.

It was all fun and games until Trey became old enough to finally test out the gridiron for himself. He started playing tackle football in the first grade with the second and third graders. He recalls his first ever championship game at quarterback, “I think I fumbled every snap that game, and I cried all night after we lost that game,” he explained with a laugh.

Even back in first grade, Hansen hated to lose. His competitiveness hasn’t eased up at all and extends to the point that he didn’t talk to his friend for over a week after the beating he received on a last second kickoff return for a touchdown in Madden. “There are times when you need to calm yourself down, but being competitive is a good thing,” Hansen said.

Growing up in Becker, Minn., Hansen was just like the boy who idolizes him. He was the ball boy in sixth grade for the Becker Bulldogs football team and just like everyone else, always had his eyes on the quarterback.

It’s often called the most important position in sports. The high profile position always has the spotlight on, makes millions and dates super models. Many guys want to be that guy and as many girls want to be with him. The kid in Hy-Vee didn’t approach Hansen because he was on the football team, he approached him because he was the quarterback of the football team. It has all the glitz and glamour anyone could ever want.

Except Trey Hansen.

Hurling the ball in a tight spiral as fast as he can will get Hansen into a Division I college, but it won’t be as a quarterback. He is currently ranked as the seventh overall long snapper in the entire country and holds a five star rating by Kohl’s kicking. Kohl’s ranks for ESPN.com and selects the participants for the Under Armour All-American game.

Going into Hansen’s freshman year, his dad attended a coaching clinic where one of the instructors was a long snapping coach. The very next day the Hansen duo was out trying to figure how to do a job that is so often overlooked. “I had no idea what I was doing. It was never a spiral to start. It was crazy,” Hansen said, laughing.

His competitive nature forced a desire to get on the field any way he could to emerge. He went to a Kohl’s training camp where he could get professional instruction. He got the knack for it and was invited to attend a competition camp. He got to try his hand with some of the best specialists in the country. Two months after he snapped a ball for the first time, he was the starting long snapper for the Becker High Bulldogs as a freshman.

After attending numerous camps around the entire country, Hansen started to make a name for himself. At one point he was the third ranked snapper in the country, and his mailbox started to fill up a lot quicker with letters from colleges. At first he received heavy interest from Division II schools, but as he progressed, schools such as Alabama, Florida and Oklahoma started showing their interest. The University of Minnesota has been Hansen’s dream school since he was a kid, and he and the special teams coach keep in touch on a weekly basis. The University of Nebraska has also emerged as a front runner and contender to Minnesota.

Hansen worked to improve his stock as a prospect by lowering his 40 yard dash time to under 4.8 seconds and pound for pound being “probably close” to the strongest athlete on the team. He was 10 pounds shy of joining a select few in the 1,000 pound club, which adds total weight squatted, clean pulled and benched together. Hansen was elected a team captain by his teammates and leads with confidence. “He’s taken his leadership to the next level and sets a good example on and off the field,” said fellow captain Chase Koch.

His hard work nearly paid off in the highest regards as he nearly became the second consecutive Cedar Falls Tiger to represent the school in the Under Armour All-American game. Seventy snappers competed in a Kohl’s camp this summer that would qualify the top two scorers for the Under Armour All-American game. Hansen finished in third place, 6 points behind the leaders who both had the highest score in the history of the camp. There then was a snap off to see who would attend the Semper Fi All-American game, sponsored by the Marines. Quinn Sonntag of Dowling Catholic automatically qualified for the event, and Hansen was going to be the second player selected. The Marine rules state, however, that a player from the west side of the United States and the east side of the country must be picked. Because Sonntag already qualified from Iowa, Hansen would not be eligible.

After leaving his hometown of Becker, before his junior year, his tightly knit group of friends were the hardest things to leave behind. Hansen stayed in contact with his friends, and they even made a trip down to Cedar Falls in October. Dec. 1, 2013 was just like any other night, Hansen was catching up with his best friend Anthony Nelson via text. Hansen had decided to quit basketball that day, whereas Nelson was struggling with his grades and was going to be ineligible to play for his Becker Bulldogs. Everything seemed normal that night. The next day however, was the day that resembled anything but normal and the day that would change the lives of so many.

Hansen was sitting in his final class of the day, eighth hour entrepreneurship. His phone started to buzz and his friend from Becker, Blake, had texted him four times demanding that he answer his phone call. He excused himself and when he heard the words that came out of Blake’s mouth, he couldn’t speak, tears started streaming down his face, and he hung up the phone without a word spoken. The only other people in the hallway were the basketball coaches, Ryan Schultz and Chris Dyvig, who wanted to have a word with Hansen about quitting the team. He stormed right past them and couldn’t muster words enough to speak.

The morning of Dec. 2, Nelson told his parents he had to go in 45 minutes early to take a test. At 8:35 am, Nelson tweeted “I’m taking the easy way out.” Twenty five minutes after school had started, Nelson’s car was found crushed into a tree all the way across town. There were no skid marks on the road and no reason to believe this was an accident. Nelson died on impact. It was the third suicide at Becker in one year.

“He just wasn’t the kid you think would do it. He was the most happy, go lucky kid you’ve ever met. He had two younger brothers that looked up to him like none other. He was always happy. I just don’t know, but that tweet just gives it away that there’s no other explanation.” Hansen said.

The night of the wake was the first home basketball game for Becker. The arena was sold out and packed with green, Nelson’s favorite color. The Bulldogs lost the game by two, but Nelson’s best friend Blake had the game of his life. “He just couldn’t miss. It was cool to see because you know he was watching over him,” Hansen said.

Nelson Strong #39 and the Bible verse Isaiah 41:10 are printed on the wristbands that rest on the wrist of Hansen every day since. He plays with his name on his cleats, says a prayer before every game and plays for Anthony Nelson.

“Don’t take every day for granted and just know there are always people there to talk to even when life is going rough,” Hansen said.

The fame of Friday night lights and the thrill that comes with it can get you caught up in a temporary high. But no matter if you’re the star quarterback or “just” the long snapper, sometimes it’s best to take a step back and appreciate all that you have, on and off the field.

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