Hersey grad Hansen stepping into big role at NIU
A year ago Jordan Hansen rewrote the Hersey record book at quarterback.
A year later he's switched to a new position and is making an immediate impact at Northern Illinois.
As the Huskies get ready for their season opener Nov. 4 hosting Buffalo on ESPN2, Hansen has found a home at strong safety, impressing coaches in a recent scrimmage while trying to wrap up a rare starting spot as a true freshman.
"I'm repping as a one but the depth chart is not set in stone yet so still trying to compete every day," Hansen said. "The coaches let us know that everything was an open competition. I came in with the mindset to get better every day and listen to my coaches and let my game speak for itself."
Last season Hansen set Hersey records for most touchdowns in a game, touchdowns in a season, rushing yards and total offense. He earned All-State honors and captained the Daily Herald's Northwest Suburbs All-Area team.
Hansen does have experience at safety. That's where he started as a junior at Hersey when he first began to think he had potential to play Division I football.
"Growing up playing football has always been a love of mine but I never thought I could do something with it after high school until my junior year," Hansen said. "Some of my coaches came up and talked to me and asked what I really wanted to do with my life and they said I had the potential to go to college. After that I really put a lot of work in the offseason to perfect my craft so I could do something with football."
Hansen said he doesn't consider himself a late bloomer. He's happy on the defensive side of the ball even after compiling his record-breaking numbers at quarterback.
"During the recruiting process they said they see me as a safety," said Hansen, who picked NIU over North Dakota State. "I love safety. You get to play free, play downhill and really trust your instincts. It's definitely a lot of fun."
Like all freshmen, Hansen is experiencing an unusual transition, taking his classes online with a handful of study tables with a few football players.
He and his teammates have been in a bubble since June when he arrived in DeKalb. At first he worked out in small groups of five players, and that number gradually increased over the summer.
On Aug. 8 the MAC became the first conference to postpone the football season to the spring due to COVID-19 concerns. Later the conference decided to go ahead with a shorter six-game schedule plus a MAC championship game Dec. 18, which NIU reached six straight times from 2010-2015 but just once in the last four years.
It's been a roller coaster for Hansen.
"I was definitely a little disappointed (when the season was postponed) but us as a team, we were ready for whatever they said we were going to do," Hansen said. "It didn't change our mindset. We were still out there working every day for whenever they have a season, just listening to coaches and trying to prepare for spring season at the time.
"That whole time we were waiting it was smaller groups, only helmets. Once we found out we were playing in the fall it was nice to get pads on and the whole team together and play some real football."
During a team scrimmage, Hansen stood out with a tackle for loss and a pass breakup to stop touchdowns.
"I did OK," Hansen said. "Obviously I have somethings to work on. I had some plays here and there I showed some of the potential I have but I have to keep working and listen to my coaches."
The oddities of his first year of college football will continue in the opener at Huskie Stadium. Like his teammates, Hansen is allowed four tickets for immediate family in an otherwise empty stadium.
None of this is how Hansen pictured his first year of college football going, but he's looking forward to finally taking the field.
"I'm excited to get started," Hansen said. "We've been working a long time for this. It's going to be good to get out and start playing."