EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – When he was in the sixth grade, Maverick Hansen finally convinced his mom to let him go out for football after months of pleading.
There was just one problem; Hansen was 50 pounds heavier than the local youth league’s playing weight limit.
“We didn’t know when I signed up but there was a weight limit of 170 pounds and I was 220 pounds,” Hansen said. “I was a really big sixth grader, you know?”
Most kids probably would have given up on the idea or at least accepted the seemingly unavoidable fact they wouldn’t be able to play that sixth-grade season. Hansen was not most kids.
Day after day, Hansen ran and ran and ran while his teammates practiced. He started being more disciplined about what he ate, and by week eight of the season, he had lost all the weight.
“Oh it was a lot of suffering,” Hansen recalled. “Mainly like mentally suffering because there’s always like, I always just wanted to eat, you know? I just wanted to eat stuff all the time and my mom would be like ‘do you want to play football or do you want to eat this?’ And I’d be like ‘well I kind of want to play football.’
“Once I got out there I started throwing kids around, you know? I really liked it. So that began my football career from there and I just took off.”
The level of commitment and hard work Hansen displayed as a sixth grader stuck with him as he continued to develop into a Div. I recruit.
He went to high school at Farmington Hills Harrison and played for John Herrington, the legendary head coach who still holds the MHSAA record for career wins with 443.
Hansen committed to Central Michigan and woke up on National Signing Day with every intention of becoming a Chippewa.
But Mark Dantonio and his Michigan State staff reached out at the last minute and offered Hansen a scholarship. Hansen was a lifelong MSU fan and immediately flipped his commitment and signed with the Spartans.
“I mean I could have had Alabama, Ohio State, any of them. I still would’ve came here,” Hansen said. “I just love this place and also, my dad was in really bad health. So I needed to stay in Michigan.”
Hansen’s father, Martin Hansen, was diabetic and battled complications from a serious leg injury in recent years. He passed away at the age of 58 last December, shortly after Maverick wrapped up his redshirt junior season at MSU.
“I ended up putting on like 25 pounds within a few weeks [of his death] just because of all the stress and everything,” Hansen said. “It was a tough time but I was able to get through it. I knew my brothers had been through a lot more than I had.
“My oldest brother, he’s autistic, and he witnessed my dad pass away, and then my middle brother, he was like the father figure of everything and had to take it all in his hands. So I knew that what I was going through was nothing compared to what they were going through. So I kind of put my feelings on the back burner to try and support them, and just us supporting each other kind of helped us through it.”
Hansen said the MSU football program was supportive throughout his father’s health struggles, and the compassion from his coaches and teammates is something he’ll always remember.
“Last year during fall camp he was in the ICU and I remember there was probably two to three practices where they were like ‘don’t worry about football, just go home and be there for your family and everything.’ That truthfully meant a lot to me because I knew that my family needed me. I knew that my oldest brother needed me to come home and be there for him while he was going through that hard time because he was living by himself, which is definitely not easy for a kid with autism, you know?”
The hardship off the field changed Hansen’s perspective on life and football.
“Life is so short and you only have so many opportunities to be around the people you’re around, you know? So I try to just take advantage of every opportunity I get to be around people and just make the most of everything.”
Hansen is making the most of his time at MSU and hopes it is not nearing an end. He went through Senior Day festivities during the Spartans last home game against Nebraska, but he does have one season of eligibility remaining and has expressed a desire to come back.
“There’s so much uncertainty just because of the whole situation with the head coach and all that stuff,” he said. “It makes me question if they’re going to want me to come back or not. I would like to come back. I’ve been back and forth with my mom, we’ve been talking about it and she said I’ll know when it’s time whether I’m going to stay or not. So I’m just kind of waiting to have the feeling of knowing for sure.”
Hansen’s mother was there for Senior Day and watched him and his teammates win their final home game of the season. Hansen said having his mother there was really meaningful because of all the sacrifices she made to help him get to this point.
“It was a beautiful moment, man. Having my mom on the field, she was tearing up a little bit and it almost made me tear up just because I know how much it meant to her.”
Hansen recorded a sack for the first time in over two years during the game and when the clock struck zero, he was the first one there to wrap interim head coach Harlon Barnett in a big hug and congratulate him on his first win.
A Spartan through and through, the Nebraska game is one Hansen will always remember, and he knows his father would have been proud of how far he has come and his performance that day.
“He would have just been so proud and happy for me to make some plays and be out there doing what I love and with my brothers and everything so, he would have been so happy. I wish he would have been here but I know he’s looking down and he’s my number one fan up there.”