In the moments before Tyler Hansen takes the field today against No. 17 Kansas University, the Colorado quarterback will do what he always does before a game.
He’ll sit at his locker as teammates pound shoulder pads and smack helmets and work themselves into a pregame frenzy nearby, and he’ll fight off sleep.
“Everyone (in the locker room) is getting pumped up,” said the sophomore from Murrieta, Calif., earlier this week, “and I’m yawning.”
That calm demeanor has come in handy during the past week, as Hansen has found himself in the middle of a public and complicated Colorado quarterback controversy.
Following the Buffaloes’ 38-14 loss to then-No. 2 Texas last weekend, CU offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau indicated that Hansen, whose red shirt was burned while replacing struggling starter Cody Hawkins in the second half against the Longhorns, would be the team’s starter for the remainder of the season.
Tuesday, however, head coach Dan Hawkins — Cody’s father — told reporters both players would see action this season, possibly as early as today’s game.
For the most part, Hansen says, he has been able to avoid much of the recent hoopla. He has stopped picking up newspapers and avoids reading about the matter online, though he still gets approached by curious classmates on campus who want to know what the deal is with the team’s quarterback situation.
At the same time, he admits the situation is awkward and says his focus now is simply on helping salvage a season that, to this point, has been largely disappointing.
“You’ve got to just look at it positively and concentrate on what you can control,” Hansen said. “So that’s what I’m doing right now.”
Hansen, who will be making his third career start against a Kansas team coming off its worst defensive performance of the season, spoke highly of the younger Hawkins, calling him a good friend and a willing tutor, and teammates insist the recent drama hasn’t presented a major distraction entering today’s game.
“People are going to rally behind Tyler,” junior receiver Scotty McKnight said. “And Tyler’s our new quarterback, and everyone’s all for it, and I think the locker room is kind of rallying behind that and ready to get things going.”
Hansen is certainly ready. He said this week he felt he’d done enough to earn the starting spot during summer workouts following a true freshman season in which he completed 34 of 65 passes for 280 yards, a touchdown and four interceptions in five games and was eager to prove that he deserved the role now.
Asked what it would mean to lead the Buffaloes to a victory over a ranked opponent in his first start of the season, meanwhile, Hansen didn’t hesitate.
“That would be amazing,” he said. “I might burst into tears if I do that, and hopefully I do. Because this has been my dream since I was a little kid. I’ve always wanted to just be The Guy. Growing up, my dad was a high school coach, so I saw a lot of guys go on to the college level, and I’ve watched them grow and mature into football players, and I’ve loved it. And that’s always been my dream, to play big-time college football and be The Guy.”