SALT LAKE CITY— Just about everything Dakota and Chase Hansen do involves competition.
“Absolutely,” Dakota said of whether or not the brothers could turn a trip to the grocery store into a contest. “That’s just how it is. … Most of the time we’re interacting, it’s something competitive, to be honest.”
From the time they were small, they were fiercely loyal teammates and willing and worthy opponents. They now play together on the University of Utah football team.
“Sports 24-7,” Dakota said of what childhood was like for the youngest of seven children. “We both played three sports — football, basketball and baseball — year round, all on travel teams, as competitive as it gets. Sometimes my parents had to take separate cars to get us to games or practices. If we weren’t at a game, we were in the yard tossing a ball around or inside playing Xbox.”
That dynamic could be brutal for some. But for the pair of former Lone Peak quarterbacks, it’s been a blessing in different ways as they enjoy their first football season as teammates.
Chase Hansen said it helped him deal with an injury that meant missing the entire fall camp this summer.
“My family kind of has a joke that without football, I’m kind of like a psycho,” he said laughing. “There was a time when I was hurt, and I was just so restless, I was so kind of on edge all the time. And I just had to find a way to just play Xbox or play games or do something competitive. … I think everyone has some madness in them; everyone just gets it out in different ways. I guess my way is football.”
Dakota said the relationship with his brother helped him make the transition from high school quarterback to college safety, something his brother did in 2015.
“The days I didn’t want to go out and do stuff, he pushed me,” said Dakota, who is younger by five years. “The days I didn’t want to go do footwork, he pushed me to go work out. He’s just always pushed me. He’s helped me become the hard worker I think I am now.”
While Dakota said there are a lot of areas where he bests his brother, he admits Chase has the edge when it comes to competitive drive.
“We’re pretty similar, but he pushes it a little more,” he said. “He loves the grind. He’s a little different that way.”
Chase admits that even when he’s done with football, he will find some way to compete.
“I’ll find something,” he said. “I’ll do Ironman, do marathons, do something to get it out. I guess it’s just my style of personality, just to find a way to compete. That’s just kind of how I am, overly competitive — it’s kind of a family joke.”
Chase and his coaches know this is an issue that, while extremely valuable on the field, could hamper his comeback.
“I’m pretty impatient,” he said, admitting his injury was painful for quite some time before he finally decided to deal with it in a more permanent way because he didn’t want to miss a minute of training or camps. “I was getting tired of sitting around and seeing guys out here working, the season is coming closer, and it’s just frustrating sometimes.”
Cornerbacks coach Sharrieff Shah said the best aspect to Hansen’s return is the leadership he brings to the field.
“So much leadership, such a playmaking ability,” Shah said of what Hansen brings to the team. “Chase was unbelievably productive. His productivity is what you just sit in awe of, for a kid (who) was not brought up on this side of the football, and just to recognize certain things, intuitive to him. … It was good to hear his voice because that was lacking in the secondary.”
Utah’s leading tackler in 2016, Chase Hansen was one of the state’s most sought-after quarterbacks coming out of Lone Peak High in 2012. After serving an LDS mission to Australia, Hansen returned to Utah, and midway through the 2015 season he changed positions — from quarterback to safety. In just seven games at safety, he made his mark, earning 17 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack. In 2016, he started all 13 games and led Utah in tackles (90), passes defended (12) and pass breakups (9). He ranked in the top 12 in the Pac-12 in all three of those categories and earned honorable mention all-conference honors.
Some were surprised how quickly Chase adjusted to life as a defensive force. Dakota wasn’t one of them.
“He’s always picked up things quick,” he said. “He’s always been a naturally good athlete.”
Dakota, on the other hand, enjoyed much more modest success, starting his senior season and leading the Knights to the title game, where they lost to powerhouse Bingham. He chose to follow his brother to Utah and to the defensive side of the ball.
“When I decided I was going to come up here and play safety, we started working on safety footwork,” Dakota said. “It’s tough stuff. I have a long ways to go, but (I’ll) just keep working.”
Trying to grow in the shadow cast by someone of Chase’s stature might feel daunting to some. But Dakota sees it as an advantage as their competition is always rooted in camaraderie.
“I love it,” he said of their relationship. “It’s all good competition, never something serious. It’s always to benefit both of us.”
And as Dakota glances at his brother, standing across the field, surrounded by reporters, he adds, “It’s fun to be up here with him. We’re way close. He’s a really good brother.”