Brian K. Hansen
All Brian Hanson’s Life, he wanted to be an athlete.
Brian’s athletic endeavors started early with T-ball and youth league baseball. He was fortunate enough to play baseball for fellow Hall of Famer Jack Purtell Sr. in his later youth league days.
Brian also played flag football and recreational basketball. He was always watching, reading, or playing some kind of sport.
Entering into his high school career, Brian played on the football team and was a member of the Cardinal Conference winning baseball team of 1979, under the direction of Mr. Jerry White. The highlights of his high school years were hitting one home run and scoring one touchdown. Hardly Hall of Fame credentials, but nonetheless, very fond memories of a limited high school athletic career.
The best was yet to come.
Brian loved the game of lacrosse. He would leave practice and head over to Ashland College, where he could be around the lacrosse team. He clearly fell in love with the game.
In choosing a college, Brian knew he wanted to go to Ohio State and try to be a lacrosse player. After walking on, he became a member of the team, making the traveling squad as a freshman, earning some minutes, but not enough to earn a letter.
The tall Ashlander, who grew to be 6’2” and 185 pounds as a college sophomore, would earn a starting berth at crease attack and contribute eleven goals and three assists. Once again, not earth shattering numbers, but something Brian became very proud of. He was living a dream.
Then Brian’s dream became a nightmare.
On May 1, 1982, Ohio State’s Number 7 was injured in a lacrosse game at Ashland College, on the very field he had learned how to play the game. From that day on, Brian would never run again. He was now a quadriplegic.
If Brian was ever to play sports again, to be an athlete again, he would have to do it from a wheelchair.
After spending five months in the hospital and rehab center, Brian started classes in pursuit of his Physical Education degree. He might not be able to run, but he could still teach others how to. Plus, being a P.E. teacher was a dream of his since being a gym cadet for Mr. Dan McFadden, in the 9th grade at Ashland Junior High. After acclimating to life in a wheelchair, Brian was looking for a way to be an athlete again. Barb Mueller, the women’s tennis coach at Ohio State talked to him about wheelchair tennis and how his athletic career didn’t have to be over.
After finishing college and earning his B.S. in Physical Education, Brian loaded up his car and moved to California. He took an elementary school, P.E. position in the Oakland Unified School District.
His athletic career was about to explode.
After running into a wheelchair tennis player on the street in Berkeley, California, Brian found out more about the amazing world of wheelchair sports. There were tennis tournaments all over the world, full of guys just like him – guys that wanted to be athletes but had to compete sitting down.
This is where the nightmare becomes an even better dream.
Brian started playing tennis tournaments, traveling around the country. He had some success, but like all athletes, he had to learn the ropes. By 1990, the rope was firmly in his grasp. He was playing tennis, along with wheelchair rugby. As soon as one season would end, the other one would begin. The native Ohioan was in heaven.
Wheelchair rugby is a sport played much like wheelchair basketball, except the teams score goals that resemble touchdowns, and the players can crash into each other in their wheelchairs. His team traveled all over the USA and into Canada.
The 1990 Quadzilla team would win the National Championship and also play in the national championship for the next three years, losing twice by one goal. Brian was part of a team that won over 200 games in his nine-year career. He was also on the USA team that played in the Stoke Mandeville games in England that captured the gold medal.
Tennis was also a big part of Brian’s life. He was now sponsored by Invacare wheelchairs, Adidas, and Prince rackets. From 1990-98, Brian played in 107 Quad Open tournaments, making the finals in 102 of them. He never lost before the semi-finals. Also during that time, he was ranked number one or two in the world each year except 1995, when he took the year off. Other accomplishments in that time span: four U.S. Open Quad Open singles championships – including three in a row, two U.S. Open Quad Open Doubles championships, played in Japan, Holland, and England, along with many states throughout the U.S. He was a member of Team USA that participated in the World Team Cup and won a gold medal in Barcelona, Spain, along with a silver medal in Flushing Meadow at the site of the U.S. Open, and making the cover of Sports n’ Spokes, the disabled sports magazine that Brian read in the hospital, when he was wondering if he’d ever be an athlete again.
All of that accomplished using his left. After the accident, Brian, born a right-hander, would need to learn how to do everything left-handed. His right hand no longer responded to the message from his brain, due to the injury to his spinal cord.
Currently, Brian is retired from sports. He is now in his 18th year teaching physical education in California, and has been a lacrosse reporter, covering the West Coast lacrosse scene, for the past two years. He is back around the game that captured his imagination and shaped his life.
Brian would like to thank the tremendous people of Ashland that helped make his childhood so great. He loved growing up in Ashland and has many, many, fond memories of his youth.
But most of all, Brian would like to thank his parents, Harry and Patricia Hanson of Ashland. They have been his biggest fans forever and he can’t thank them enough for teaching him so many important lessons about life and their never-ending love and support.
Nominator: Jeff Rickel