"I love BYU," said Braden Hansen. "I've always been a big BYU fan, so why wait? BYU is an ideal situation and really the school I've always dreamed of playing for. Committing to them just made so much sense that I decided not to wait."
Hansen is a 6'6 ½", 255-pound offensive/defensive line recruit from Alta High School in Sandy, Utah. He is big and athletic. He runs a 5.0 forty and can easily dunk a basketball. In fact, Hansen averages nearly 16 points per game for Alta's varsity basketball team.
"I think I'm a good athlete," said Hansen. "I just try hard and I've been fortunate to have success athletically. Hopefully I'll continue that at BYU while helping the team return to its winning ways."
Another rarity in Division I recruiting is for programs to extend a scholarship so early. In Hansen's case the offer came just weeks after National Letter of Intent Day on February 2, 2005. Given Hansen's stats and potential, BYU's coaches evidently felt compelled to make their bid early for the soon-to-be four year starter on Alta's offensive and defensive line.
"BYU has always been sending me letters," said Hansen. "They really picked up in February. One day they called my coach here at Alta and told him that they'd like to extend a scholarship offer for me to play at BYU. That was about three weeks ago. I remember my mom telling me that BYU wanted to offer me a scholarship and she seriously freaked out. She was all crying and stuff because she was so happy for me."
Hansen was very excited about the offer, but didn't accept immediately. "I thought it over for a couple of weeks and weighed all my options and it just made total sense to me to commit to BYU," recalled Hansen. "BYU has everything I want in a program. I've been thinking about Stanford and Utah. They've both been sending me letters a lot, but BYU just won out in my mind.
Hansen went on to relate the story. "I called BYU's coaches to tell them of my decision and it was really the first time I ever talked to them," he said. "It was sort of weird, but just talking to them made me just that much more excited."
Hansen first talked to new quarterbacks coach Brandon Doman and then talked to head coach Bronco Mendenhall. "Just talking to Coach Doman was great," said Hansen. "I've always been a huge fan of his and he just seemed like a great guy. Coach Mendenhall was just all business, but I loved that about him. He told me why they offered me and told me what he expects of me. He makes you want to do your best and I really felt that just talking to him over the phone."
Hansen will play for first-year Alta high football coach Les Hamilton this year. Although Hamilton has yet to coach a season with Hansen, he has met with Hansen and came away very impressed. "He's just an outstanding young man, a leader who has that certain air about him that inspires and leads others," said Hamilton. "He's just the sort of player who you want leading your team. Of course he's a great athlete, but I think it's the intangibles he has regarding his character as to why BYU offered him so early and why he'll be a success. He carries a 3.89 GPA and is a tremendous worker both on and off the football field. We're just proud to have him as a player in our program and he's a credit to the coaches who have gone before me to teach him."
Of course players are not offered a BYU scholarship on character alone; they have to be able to perform at the highest level on the football field. Judging by the films he has reviewed of Hansen's junior season, Coach Hamilton is confident that Hansen has the ability to compete at the next level. "The kid has it all," Hamilton declared. "He has size, speed, strength and smarts about him. He's just one of the better athletes I've seen and I can't wait to coach him as he'll be a great leader for our team this coming year."
Hansen is aware of BYU's shortcomings during the past few seasons, but he does not think for a moment that BYU will continue in that funk. "I wouldn't have committed to them if I didn't believe Coach Mendenhall was taking them in the right direction," said Hansen. "Everything I hear and the impression that I get through his letters tells me that BYU is on the rise and I want to be a part of it."
Hansen is LDS and plans on serving an LDS mission. He will probably do so right out of high school since he turns 19 the October after he graduates. "I don't know for sure how I'm going to work that," Hansen admitted. "I might play a year, redshirt or whatever and then leave or go immediately after high school. I have a while to decide that."
Hansen prefers defense, but is open to playing offensive line for the Cougars. "I like playing defense more, but I want to play wherever the coaches feel I can best succeed and help the team," he said. "They didn't recruit me at either position, they're going to see how it works out when I get there I guess."
In the meantime, Hansen is thankful that the pressure is off so he can focus on honing his skills for his senior season. He also plans on increasing his familiarity with the program that he will join in just over a year. "I want to get down [to BYU] as much as possible and learn everything I can, talk to the coaches and all that," said Hansen. "I'm just so excited to have this opportunity. I don't know what might have happened my senior year, so taking this opportunity made sense. I've always loved BYU and this is really a dream come true for myself and my family."