La Salle Institute graduate, Conner Hansen’ 20 officially committed to St John Fisher. However, it wasn’t long ago Hansen was quite unsure of what his future football career would hold.
“I was just looking for that one coach to take a shot on me because I knew I had something left in the tank,” said Hansen.
Hansen spent all four years at La Salle Institute before deciding to go to The Kiski School, a prep school in Saltsburg Pennsylvania. Attending The Kiski School provided Hansen the opportunity he had been waiting for.
Hansen had played football from 1st grade through middle school before deciding to focus on basketball in high school. He made basketball his top priority in sports in 9th and 10th grade. After witnessing La Salle’s football program bring in a new coach and establish a new system he saw it as his call to return to playing the sport he always loved.
When Hansen joined the team La Salle already had an established starting QB Christian Luizzi who now plays QB for Worcester Polytechnic Institute. This year Hansen was focused on working hard to get where he wanted to be.
Entering his senior year with the Cadets Hansen felt as if this was his year to be La Salle’s starting QB and accomplishing his goals on the field. “Going into my senior year I thought I had a really good shot at getting the job,” said Hansen. Unfortunately for Hansen, he was not named the starting QB in his last year of high school.
“I had a lot of expectations my senior year and I wasn’t able to meet them,” said Hansen. Although this decision was a tough one to handle, he acknowledged he could only control his response. “In my opinion, I was working the hardest for it. They just went a different way and I can’t control anything about that. All it really did was add fuel to the fire.”
At this point Hansen had a decision to make, that year would either be the end of his playing days, or just a new beginning. “A lot of people expect you just to roll over once you don’t get your shot. And that’s where I credit my family and trainers.”
Hansen’s trainer, a Troy High School graduate, and running back Jordan Canzeri ‘11 played a big role in making sure this decision didn’t impact his playing career in a negative way. “It speaks volume to me because he stuck with me when I was projected to be the guy and then when I wasn’t the guy.”
Canzeri after graduating high school went on to play at the University of Iowa from 2011-2015 before pursuing a professional career in Japan with the X League. “He never gave up on me. He knew that I would be able to be what I always have dreamt of being. And being able to play at the next level,” said Hansen.
After Hansen’s senior year was complete he didn’t have the offers he would have expected if he was a starter. Many programs and people around Hansen didn’t believe he had proven himself to be capable of playing at the college level. Once again, this wouldn’t stop him. “I knew I wasn’t done yet. And I wasn’t giving up.”
“Through hard work, I knew nothing was going to get in my way,” said Hansen. Although Hansen worked through all the doubt around, he admits it still plays an impact. “It still fires me up to this day.”
“You’re going to face adversity at some point in your life whatever it is. It won’t be the first time I deal with it, and it won’t be the last,” said Hansen.
The process of what would be next after high school was not easy for Hansen. His family being in his corner the whole way through played a key role in keeping Hansen’s hopes alive. “I’m extremely thankful that they have supported me through the whole process and gave me the opportunity to go prep,” said Hansen. The Kiski School’s historic football program took their shot on Hansen.
The next example of adversity arrived for Hansen the same way it did for many others, COVID-19. In prep school film and scouting are essential and the pandemic was not exactly complimentary for players who chose this route.
Although this would not help Hansen’s case, The Kiski football team was fortunate enough to practice and play 4 games. And Hansen went on to win the job. “Being able to practice every day with those talented guys, every practice felt like a game,” said Hansen. “I don’t think you need to have a certain amount of games played to prove you can play good football. The cream rises to the top.”
Playing for Kiski allowed Hansen the opportunity to be recruited by colleges, something he missed out on in high school. Those schools included Hartwick, Springfield, SUNY Maritime, Norwich, Allegheny, and of course St. John Fisher.
Distance, offers, and the coaching staff all played a key role in deciding to commit to St. John Fisher, which Hansen publicly announced on Feb. 26. This decision came heartfelt for Hansen. “Everything I earned was through hard work.”
This decision is nowhere near the end for Hansen. “I want to go in there and compete. I want to learn that offense and climb as high as I can in it.” This shouldn’t be a problem for Hansen who has leadership characteristics and incredible work ethic to go with it.
“There are certain kids that have that ‘leader’ mentality and he is one of them,” said Hansen’s QB coach Billy Pine. His teammates and trainers seemed to have nothing but good things to say about him as a person and football player. “He’s a true student of the game, he understands areas he needs to work on and wants to attack those areas within every session,” said Pine.
“I don’t think anyone would be smart in betting against Conner because he will keep his foot on the gas until the final second,” said training partner Jacob Barbera who plays WR at Hudson Valley.
Hansen looks forward to working hard to get his chance at St. John Fisher. And Barbera couldn’t have said it any better, “The kid doesn’t stop.”
Hansen had a message for all players in the same or similar situation as he was once in; “If you keep working harder than the other person eventually you’re going to beat them out, it’s only a matter of time.”
Adversity is guaranteed in sports. That usually stops athletes from reaching their full potential. For Hansen, I’d bet against that being the case.