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story.lead_photo.caption Arkansas State University quarterback Justice Hansen

Justice Hansen stirred from his sleep inside the fireworks tent and walked out of the mall parking lot to find a shower.

He sneaked into the back of a hotel, wiped down in a hallway restroom, then helped himself to the hotel's complimentary continental breakfast.

Hansen returned to the fireworks tent, ready for the week to be over, ready for the payday that would cover the rest of the expenses to attend Butler (Kan.) Community College and permit his comeback to football.

It was the summer of 2015.

Months removed from his decision to transfer from the University of Oklahoma, Hansen had voluntarily isolated himself from his parents, his family, his friends.

Hansen eventually transferred to Arkansas State University, where he quarterbacked the Red Wolves to a Sun Belt Conference championship in 2016 and was named the conference's Offensive Player of the Year in 2017.

It's all part of Hansen's sports testimony, which he shared this offseason on his personal YouTube channel, pacing in the backyard of his family's home in Oklahoma.

Arkansas State coaches and players say Hansen is normally quiet and reserved. Hansen agrees.

So why share his story now?

"I really think it's a story that not a lot of people have very much knowledge about," Hansen, who is preparing for his senior season at ASU, said Thursday. "Some of the details, it's kind of some of the trials and tribulations that a lot of people didn't know about."

An injury started it all: A sprained MCL and high ankle sprain cost Hansen the final half of his senior season at Santa Fe (Okla.) High, and despite graduating a semester early, Hansen said he entered the Oklahoma Sooners' spring practice out of shape and unprepared.

During the 2014 season, Hansen sat on the bench alongside future Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield, who had just transferred from Texas Tech. Hansen realized he would not have much of an opportunity to play.

"Deciding to leave the University of Oklahoma was all my idea," Hansen said in the video, "and doing so, I feel like I let a lot of people down."

"I started pushing people away."

Hansen transferred to Butler, which he said could not offer him a full scholarship. He said he and his parents "went through a rough patch," and he decided he was going to "make it back and do it myself."

Hansen met a man near Butler, which is in El Dorado, Kan., who offered him the one-week job at the firework stand in a mall parking lot.

The money Hansen made helped him arrive at Butler, where he said he tore his quadricep "completely off the bone" of one of his legs during fall practice. The team doctor told him he had a six-to-seven month recovery window.

"I didn't have another season to waste," Hansen said. "Forget about it, I'll deal with it."

By the third week of the school year, Hansen said he got a call from one of his coaches, who said Hansen didn't have enough money to live in student housing. Hansen moved into the basement of one of his teammates and stayed there the remainder of the semester.

Hansen led the Grizzlies to a 2015 Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference championship and was named to the All-KJCCC honorable mention team. He had two scholarship offers at the end of the season: Akron and Arkansas State.

Hansen chose the Red Wolves.

"It doesn't surprise you that he would fight through that kind of stuff," said ASU fifth-year Coach Blake Anderson. "Helped him turn out to be the kind of person he is."

Arkansas State began spring practice March 27, and Anderson said the Red Wolves will have a brief practice today at 4:15 p.m. in preparation for their second scrimmage Saturday at 9:25 a.m.

Junior offensive guards Troy Elliott and Dalton Ford will miss spring practice due to offseason injuries, Anderson said, and senior running back and last year's starter Warren Wand will miss "a few" practices with a twisted ankle.

Photo by Thomas Metthe
Arkansas State quarterback Justice Hansen rushed for 422 yards and 7 touchdowns last season in addition to passing for 3,967 yards and 37 scores.

Sports on 04/13/2018

Print Headline: Hansen shares his struggles

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