Braden Hansen: faith, family and football

Braden Hansen, senior offensive lineman, has started in every game of his career at BYU.

A 6-foot-6 senior offensive lineman from Sandy, Utah, Braden Hansen knew from a young age he wanted to play football for BYU, but what he didn’t know was how much his life would change from the experience.

“Since I was probably three or four years old, my grandpa had season tickets,” Hansen said. “He’d always bring me and my two brothers to the home games. Since I was a little kid I grew up coming to all the games. I’ve been trained since I was young to be a BYU Cougar.”

Hansen started playing sports at a young age. At eight, he started playing basketball for a city league and his basketball teammates convinced him to try out for football.

“A couple kids on [my] basketball team told me I needed to come play football because I was a pretty big kid,” Hansen said. “So I started playing and I was eight years old then and I’ve played every year since.”

He started as the offensive guard on the varsity football team at Alta High School while also playing basketball all four years. As Hansen’s desire to play BYU football grew, he was able to watch his uncle and two older brothers pave the way for him. The Hansen’s are one of many in a long line of BYU football families (see story below). Danny Hansen, Braden’s uncle, was an offensive guard from 1976-79.

Both of Braden’s brothers and both transfers from Snow College, Brock and Chase Hansen played for BYU from 2005-06 and 2009-10, respectively.

“It was huge and a lot to live up to because they both came here so there was a lot of pressure on me,” said Hansen regarding his family football heritage. “But they set the way and they set a great example. I was excited to follow in their path.”

After redshirting his first year at BYU, Hansen set off on his two-year LDS church mission to Philadelphia, Pa. It was never a question for Hansen to serve a mission and he knew BYU was the one place where he could serve and play football.

“A mission was important to me and I wasn’t going to go to a school that wouldn’t let me go on a mission,” Hansen said. “My mission changed my life forever and was an incredible experience. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.”

Upon returning from that mission, Hansen trained hard to start his very first game as a redshirt freshman. It was a game which most BYU fans will remember.

“I started as a redshirt freshman against Oklahoma and I played against Gerald McCoy, who was a first-round draft pick that year and probably the best player that I’ve played against since I’ve been here at BYU,” Hansen said. “And you know, being my first game and being a freshman, to be able to have that experience at Dallas Cowboys Stadium was something I will remember forever.”

Hansen would go on to start every game of his freshman, sophomore and junior seasons to help the Cougars to a 28-11 record and three-straight bowl victories. Hansen said his drive and desire pushed him to play in every game.

“From a young age my parents have always pushed me to be the best at whatever I put my mind to,” Hansen said. “I’ve had injuries with ankles and knees and I just never let those hold me out. I tried to rehab as fast as I could so that the next week I could play. I just felt like I had a huge responsibility to my team and to the offensive line and felt like I needed to be there for them.”

His outlook for this season is no different, even with it being his last.

“The sky is the limit for me this year,” Hansen said. “I feel like I’m a senior and it’s my year. I want to do the best I can to be able to put myself in a situation where I can play at the next level.”

While football has meant a great deal to him and given him a number of opportunities for the future, Hansen believes that BYU has provided growth in many other areas of his life.

“I feel like there are a lot of different facets of my life that have been influenced because of coming  to BYU,” Hansen said. “One is family. And then as far as what BYU is to me, I am a man of faith so coming here was huge because all the standards I have are honored here and upheld here. It’s also very scholastic. That was huge for me to come and get the education that I wanted because I know that football’s not forever.”

Hansen has not only learned life lessons from being at BYU, but he’s also learned a lot from the example set by his coach.

“I feel like the BYU motto kind of encompasses Coach Mendenhall,” Hansen said. “He has tradition, he has faith, he has honor and all of those things he stands for. Because he does that it’s an example to me and to the rest of my teammates to uphold the honor code and to give our all each day.”

Hansen will be graduating from the Marriott School of Business in December with a bachelor’s degree in business. However, Hansen will be taking far more than a business degree on to his next endeavor.

After returning from his mission, Hansen married his high school sweetheart, Lyndsey Brady and the two of them are proud parents to their eight-month old baby girl, Elle.

“It was the end of my ninth grade year and I had just finished football practice and a bunch of the guys went and we wanted to watch cheerleading try-outs,” said Hansen of his first time meeting his wife. “I saw this girl trying out for cheerleader and I was like ‘man, I need to meet her’. The middle of my sophomore year we started dating and we dated all through high school and then she wrote me on my mission.”

One year after returning from his mission, they were married in the Salt Lake Temple on June 16, 2010.

Both Hansen and his wife have placed huge importance on their family and spend as much time as possible with them when Braden has a break from football.

“We are very big family people,” she said. “He is extremely close to his family and I’m very close to mine and we spend as much time with them as we can whenever we have a three-day break. We’ve always kept it very equal on both ends to make sure that we see both because he is just as attached to his family as I am to mine.”

Lyndsey is grateful for the importance that BYU places on family and she’s seen the influence it’s had on Braden throughout his college football career.

“I’ve always loved the idea where I can count on my Sundays being just the three of us and not having any football interruptions,” she said. “I really love everything that BYU stands for and the people that it makes their football players into. Like I’ve always noticed, and Braden probably doesn’t want me sharing this, but he is always the guy on the field who after he pushes someone down, he helps them back up. I think that’s just a part of how he was raised and who BYU has turned him into.”

Lyndsey has also seen a change in Braden since becoming a father.

“He’s always had such a big, tender heart but I think just those moments when he comes home and his little girl is the one he wants to see instead of walking in the door and hugging me and kissing me, he’s like ‘where’s my baby?” she said. “So I think just seeing this big football player who’s supposed to be very rough and tough, just be so loving and tender [is] really precious.”

Hansen shared similar sentiments about his experiences of becoming a father and watching his little daughter grow every day. “She’s amazing,” Hansen said. “I really never knew what being a father was going to be like and I’ve loved every second of it. It’s just fun to see how each day she’s more aware and more active.”

Braden acknowledged that it’s been quite the adventure having a little girl.

“It’s definitely different having a girl,” Hansen said. “When [I] see her, [my] heart melts. It definitely brings out a different side of me because on the football field I’ve got to be rough and tough but when I’m at home with her I’m her protector and she’s my little [girl].”

He hopes to act in a way now that will serve as an example for his daughter in the future.

“I feel the biggest thing is just that I gave it my all every time and so that if she were to ever watch a game or hear a story about her dad that she knew that her dad gave it all he had each and every day so that might inspire her to reach for the stars and do her very best,” Hansen said.
After graduation, Hansen plans to train for the Combine and enter the NFL draft. He hasn’t thought too much about leaving BYU and he said for now he’s just taking it one day at a time.

“Provo has kind of just become home for me and especially getting married here and having a child here it feels like home,” Hansen said. “So I think when it comes to the end of the road it’s going to be tough. I know [I will miss] my brothers on the team. Right now, I’m just trying not to think about it and just enjoy each day and get ready for the season.”
 

Hansen Clan in BYU Uniforms

Fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins and sons.
 
They all have one thing in common and that is a huge number of them have all been playing for the same team in the same Cougar blue since the football program at BYU started.
 
While the Hansen’s (see up above) are one such family, there are many more that might ring a bell.
 
LaVell Edwards is a legendary college football coach. Over 29 seasons at the head of the BYU football program, Edwards amassed 257 victories, placing sixth on the all-time list of winningest coaches in college football history.
 
However, another thing that makes him and so many other BYU football names so well-known is his family history. Jim Edwards, LaVell’s son, played for BYU and for his dad as a wide receiver on the 1984 National Championship team.  Jim’s son, Matthew, then continued the father-son legacy as a tight end for BYU from 2008-2011.
 
Fred Whittingham was a player and coach for BYU. His sons, Kyle, Fred and Cary all played for BYU and both Fred and Cary played on the 1984 National Championship team.
 
Steve Kaufusi is the beginning of a long line of family football players. He played as a defensive end at BYU from 1985-87 and is currently the defensive line coach at BYU. His brother, Rich, followed in his footsteps as a defensive tackle from 1989-90.  Steve also has two sons who have since joined the program. Bronson is in his first year at BYU and Corbin will be returning to play in 2014 after finishing his LDS church mission. Their brother, Jason is also currently serving as a graduate assistant on the team and helps coach the defense while their sister Alexis played on the women’s basketball team from 2009-12.
 
Currently, there are a few family members on the BYU football team including offensive lineman Braden Brown and his brother Trevor Brown. Linebacker Spencer Hadley is the brother of freshman defensive back Matt Hadley. Jacob and Micah Hannemann are both defensive backs and brothers. Senior tight end Marcus Matthews is the brother of freshman wide receiver Mitch Matthews. Junior defensive back Justin Sorensen is the cousin of junior kicker Daniel Sorensen. And lastly, senior Houston Reynolds came to BYU after three of his own brothers played for the Cougars and is currently being coached by his dad, Lance Reynolds, who also played at BYU.
 
Houston believes that the BYU football program attracts so many families because it upholds family values.
 
“I think BYU is a special place with special values and I think that people value the same things that are valued here at BYU,” Reynolds said. “They value their families and that’s part of the BYU way, to value your family and to honor your parents. I have a father, who at the end of the day would like nothing more than for me to be successful. To have people like that [who] are blood, that you can you trust and that you know will never let you down it gives it a different feel. It gives it a very unique and special feel that not a lot of people get to experience.”