Brigham Young Cougars Ezekiel Ansah and Braden Brown were the only BYU players invited to last week's NFL Draft Combine, but they aren't the only Cougars getting a lot of attention from the NFL. BLUE COUGAR FOOTBALL recently spoke with Braden Hansen and learned that he is receiving interest from half of the teams in the National Football League.
Earlier this month, the former Cougars offensive lineman went to Allen, Texas and participated in the Texas vs. the Nation All-Star game. While he was there, Hansen went through a week of practice evaluation and interviews with NFL personnel. During that time half of the NFL's 32 teams interviewed Hansen.
"I got interviewed by 16 different teams," Hansen explained. "I was interviewed twice by the [Cleveland] Browns. Kansas City [Chiefs] interviewed me twice."
To put that number into perspective, Manti Te'o from Notre Dame interviewed with 20 different teams during the combine. At that time, Te'o was expected to be a first round draft pick.
The NFL personnel at the Texas vs. the Nation event did more evaluating than teaching during practice. Hansen said they weren't shown any new drills or taught any new techniques that they could incorporate into their workouts.
Hansen noted, "It was really basic. Lots of footwork stuff. Lots of live drills: one-on-one pass rush, one-on-one run, inside run. Just a lot of full speed drills. These are all drills we did on a daily basis in practice."
The biggest takeaway from his Texas experience was learning a new offensive scheme.
"It was good to learn another offensive scheme," Hansen said. "Our offensive coaches were great coaches. Learning the way they describe another offense as far as calls and schemes."
Hansen played half of last season at center, after playing guard most of his first three seasons. The center is the one who makes all the blocking calls at the line of scrimmage each play.
When game time came, Hansen had to block David King and Stacy McGee, both from Texas natives who played at Oklahoma, most of the game. Hansen played well enough to help the Nation team win the game 24-13.
While Hansen wasn't able to participate in the NFL Draft Combine, he was in good company. The Texas vs. the Nation All-Star game boasts that, historically, over 90 percent of its alumni go on to sign NFL contracts. Based on that, Hansen appears to have some pretty good odds of landing on an NFL roster two months from now.
Hansen suffered a hamstring injury during the 2012 season and missed several games. He feels that played a role in him not being invited to the NFL Draft Combine after being one of the top rated guard prospects before the season started. Despite the injury, Hansen is optimistic about his situation.
"I feel like I have some great opportunities," Hansen remarked. "You know, I feel my injury was a little set back, and a little frustrating, but I am back on track, back to 100 percent, and ready to showcase what I can do on pro day."
BYU will hold its Pro Day in exactly one month--March 28. Hansen expects to do all the same tests and drills that were done at the combine. Those include the 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical jump, broad jump, 20-yard shuttle, and 3-cone drill in addition to position specific drills.
One thing Hansen does not expect to do on Pro Day is take the Wonderlic test.
"I already took it," Hansen explained when asked about the notorious exam. "I took it last year. Last year, there was a group of scouts that came out to BYU. They issued the Wonderlic test to us and we took it."
The scout visit and the ensuing exam did not come as a surprise. Hansen said the team was notified before hand, however, he was not sure how to prepare for the exam.
"I don't know," was Hansen's response when asked how do prepare for the Wonderlic. "I don't think it is something you can prepare for. I know a couple of my teammates, like Braden Brown, they looked at some practice questions that had been asked on other Wonderlic tests to get an ide of what they are asking."
At the time of the interview, over a full year later, Hansen had not been told what his score was on the test.
"As far as I know, they don't tell you what you got," Hansen said.
Another learning experience from a year ago for Hansen was to see his teammate Matt Reynolds fall completely out of the draft. Seeing that happen caused Hansen to not take anything for granted.
Hansen said, "It was definitely a learning experience to see Matt projected early on as a first or second round pick and later on as a third or fifth [round]. Just take nothing for granted, give your all each day, and know that it is not over until it is over. What I learned was that you are not on a team until you are signed. I felt like Matt gave everything he had and had a really solid year."
Whether he is drafted or signs a free agent contract, Hansen has learned from former BYU players with NFL experience that what matters most is being in the right place at the right time.
"Some people have called me. John Beck, Chris Hoke, just some BYU alumni who have played or are playing in the NFL, like Max Hall, they just give me great advice. ... They shared some personal stories that they experienced, and said the best thing is to be in the right place at the right time. It is better to be on a team that needs you than to get drafted by a team that doesn't need you. My biggest thing is each day to focus on what I can do to get better, and on draft day hopefully be in the right situation at the right time and hope everything works out."
With 16 teams looking at him, it seems likely that Hansen will get a NFL contract of some kind. Hopefully, it will be with the one team that is the best fit.
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