Doug Robinson: BYU football: Gentle giant Braden Hansen grew up to become one big, talented athlete

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 18 2012 7:00 p.m. MDT

BYU offensive lineman Braden Hansen, a three-year starter, looks upfield as he prepares to throw a block in last Saturday's game against Utah.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

This is the story of the Kid Across the Street, the boy I watched grow up — and up and up and up — to became a starting guard on the BYU football team and a two-year member of the Outland Trophy Watch List. This does not surprise me at all, partly because I saw what Braden Hansen did to my mailbox.

Years ago, the kids in our neighborhood were playing a pickup game of football in my yard — I was permanent Q-Bee and the only one not wearing full pads and a helmet. I don't remember much about the game, but I do remember this: Braden crashed into my mailbox. I should note that my mailbox, which stands in the "end zone," is made of bricks and is about four feet tall and two feet wide. When Braden crashed into it, of course my first and only concern was for the mailbox. Was it OK? Did the big kid damage it? Did he knock some mortar loose?

It was fine.

Oh, and so was Braden.

If I were a college recruiter, I would have recruited Braden solely on the basis of that mailbox crash. Or this: I once saw him finish a fast break in a high school basketball game. Even if I hadn't seen him play a down of football, I would have signed him on the spot. People who are 6-foot-6 and 275 pounds should not be able to run up the court with guards and finish with a delicate, kiss-the-glass, finger-roll layup.

He has started every game for three straight years at BYU — 43 and counting, which puts him on pace to tie Matt Reynolds' school record of 52. He's 6-foot-6 and some change, 305 pounds — after slimming down from 330. He's getting calls from agents wanting to sign him after the season in preparation for the NFL Draft. Braden won't say much about it, but he did drop a one-game-at-a-time line on me. After the season-opener against Washington State, his father Lowell was on the sideline and peeked over the shoulder of an NFL scout who was taking notes. He saw Braden's name at the top of the list.

Everyone always knew Braden was going someplace in football. They just wanted him to get there fast and leave their kids alone. In little league, he was already so big and strong that parents from opposing teams accused Braden's team of cheating — Braden couldn't possibly be the same age as the other kids. This led to horrible arguments. Lowell responded by bringing his son's birth certificate to games. But it didn't help matters when Braden broke the arm of the opposing quarterbacks three times in one season.

At Alta High, his position coach was Bob Stephens, a former two-time all-conference center on BYU's Ty Detmer teams. He rode Braden so hard that Braden was upset. He couldn't understand the rough treatment. Finally, Stephens took him aside and explained he was doing this to help him prepare for the next level.

As Stephens says, "I told him, 'When you're at college bawling your eyes out and wondering why the coaches are so mean, you call me and we'll talk.' Sure enough, he called. I said, 'Braden, this is what I told you. They want to see how you respond when things get tough.' "

He was a preseason Sports Illustrated All-American at Alta High and a man among boys. They used him to run a trap play that should have been declared a health hazard. The right tackle would let the defensive end come unblocked. Just as the D-end turned the corner and thought he had a clear shot at the running back, Braden showed up, having sprinted behind the line from his left tackle spot to the far side of the line. You should've seen the look on that kid's face when he realized what was about to happen. It's the same look the people had in Jurassic Park when they were about to be eaten by T-Rex. With a running start, Braden knocked the kid into the next day.

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