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Tom Miller / Forum Communications Co., Published October 27 2012

Record game validates Hanson's transfer

GRAND FORKS – When University of North Dakota football player Zeb Miller kicked a field goal with two minutes left in the fourth quarter last Saturday to tie Montana at 31, Bryan Hanson never saw the play.

The father of North Dakota quarterback Braden Hanson was pacing in the parking lot and listening to the broadcast on the radio.

“I move around a lot,” Bryan Hanson said. “I’m an old, superstitious guy. I probably sat in four different places.”

Apart from a few moments outside the Alerus Center, Bryan, his wife, Janet, their 16-year-old son, Davis, and Bryan’s parents all were able to watch Braden put together one of the most productive college football performances of all time.

It was a highlight moment for the Hansons, who have experienced the winding road of Braden’s collegiate career.

Against the Grizzlies, Braden, a fifth-year senior transfer from North Carolina, threw for a school and Big Sky Conference record 660 yards. According to the Big Sky Conference, Hanson’s total is the most ever by a left-hander at any NCAA level.

The previous Division I record for single-game passing yards by a lefty was set by Utah’s Scott Mitchell, who threw for 631 yards against Air Force in 1988. Mitchell went on to play in the NFL with the Detroit Lions and Miami Dolphins.

After Braden hit Greg Hardin for a 32-yard touchdown with 12 seconds left to seal the win, Bryan made his way toward the field.

“There weren’t many people left in the stands at this point, and I jogged over to an opening,” Bryan said. “I asked if I could get down on the field and hug my son.”

Leaving Chapel Hill

The embrace was a special moment in the long journey for the Hansons.

Braden was a North Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year in high school, where he led his prep squad to back-to-back state titles. He later played in the Under Armour All-American game.

After Braden graduated from UNC and could see he wasn’t going to start in his fifth season with the Tar Heels, Bryan went to work in searching for a transfer destination for his son.

Bryan anonymously sent an email to approximately 50 teams to get a feeler on who would be willing to take on a fifth-year transfer.

“I got about 20-25 responses, which I thought was pretty good,” Bryan said. “I had some coaches email me and say their athletic directors don’t allow it.”

Connecting with UND

But one of the responses came from UND offensive coordinator Greg Breitbach, who Braden would later call.

“They had a great conversation,” Bryan said.

The Hansons have plenty of roots in the Midwest. Bryan was born in Fargo and his grandparents were born in Grand Forks.

“We knew the Midwest and that made it easier,” Bryan said. “We understood the people of the Midwest were genuine people. It was an area of the country that might be more receptive – both fans and players – of a fifth-year transfer.”

So in January, Braden flew to Grand Forks despite never meeting UND coach Chris Mussman or Breitbach in person.

While Braden flew, Bryan made the 25-hour drive from North Carolina to North Dakota to assist in the move.

A scary start

After all the work and worry that went into Braden’s move to Grand Forks, the experience was almost cut excruciatingly short.

In a Week 1 win over South Dakota School of Mines, Braden hurt his leg during a running play and began to limp.

But the injury would be more severe. Braden broke a bone in his leg.

“I never would have thought I would have spent halftime of his first game in the emergency room,” Bryan said.

The big day

Braden would miss parts of the next five weeks with the broken leg. Against Montana – his first game he was able to play from the opening snap to the final snap – ended with the

6-foot-5 212-pounder destroying the school record for passing yards by 145.

Bryan was listening to the radio broadcast at halftime when he heard Braden had thrown for 410 yards in the first half.

“I wanted to cut the power at the Alerus,” he said. “410 was fine with us. Let’s go.”

But Braden continued his torrid pace and led UND to a significant program victory.

Tom Miller is a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald