Imagine, if you will, a young man growing up in California who is a late bloomer from a physical perspective. With no scholarship offers from any FBS schools, he goes to play at a lower-tier school, then transfers to the University of California at Berkeley. This young man plays with a major chip on his shoulder, goes on to have an explosive junior season, and declares early for the NFL Draft.
That’s the story of Aaron Rodgers, right?
Well, yes, but it’s also the story of Chad Hansen, wide receiver and prospect in the 2017 NFL Draft. Hansen spoke to the media at the NFL Scouting Combine on Friday, and his unconventional journey to this point was one of the big topics of conversation.
Hansen, now 22 years old and measuring in at 6’2” and 202 pounds, was just 5’3” and 140 coming into high school, but he grew into his body during his senior year. That late growth led to him being passed over by most colleges, and he ended up accepting a scholarship offer at Idaho State after being ignored by every Pac-12 school.
Chip number one.
Hansen grew up in Southern California. Playing for a Pac-12 school “was a lifelong dream of mine,” he said. “My dad spent all day on the couch watching Pac-12 football. That’s always something I wanted to do, and I knew if I had the chance to do that I would take that chance.”
Even after a good freshman year, however, Hansen talked to an assistant coach at Arizona State who shot down his dreams, telling him to stay at Idaho State and play out his college eligibility.
Chip number two.
Then he got in touch with Cal, and got an offer to transfer as a walk-on. He finally had his chance, and he jumped at the opportunity. “That opportunity presented itself,” Hansen said. “I felt like I had to take that chance or I’d regret it for the rest of my life.”
Now Hansen is leaving early for the Draft, after a great junior year that saw him catch 92 passes for 1,249 yards and 11 touchdowns. In Indianapolis, he’s fighting for position among a large second and third tier of receivers, and could land with an NFL team sometime on day two of the draft. The Combine is “pretty surreal,” as Hansen put it, especially in light of his career trajectory. “Just knowing where I came from and how I got here, it’s just been a long road but it’s absolutely worth it.”
Even at the Combine, however, he feels a bit overlooked: “A lot of people think I’m a product of our offense, but I see myself as a complete receiver.” He also expects to run fast at the Combine on Saturday, saying that he feels that his speed gets “overlooked by most,” but that it actually helps him, as opposing players might also underestimate him.
Off the field, Hansen is an intelligent and thoughtful individual. He studied pre-Law at Cal, demonstrating his intelligence. He does not plan to pursue the legal field after football, however: “Being in that major has sort of steered me away from law school.” Rather, he has been exposed to business classes in his major, and said that his interest now off the field lies in that area. Of course, for the time being he is focusing on other things, like running well on Saturday.
He also played with current Green Bay Packers wide receiver and former Golden Bear Trevor Davis, who was a 5th-round pick last season.
But as for that other former Cal player who carries those chips on his shoulder? Hansen laughed about the comparison, but acknowledged that there is a commonality between him and Rodgers. “That (chip) is definitely something that’s always there and I know that. I feel like I’m underestimated every single day.”
Something tells me that if he ended up in Green Bay, he’d have plenty of common ground with the man who would be throwing the football.