Doolin: Dream to fly outshines Big Ten
By John Doolin July 12, 2012 3:30PM
Alex Hansen | Photo Supplied
Updated: August 17, 2012 6:13AM
I couldn’t help but think of former Arizona Cardinal and Purple Heart recipient Cpl. Patrick Tillman when I met Oak Forest High School Class of 2012 graduate Alex Hansen.
Tillman, after completing 15 games of his National Football League career and eight months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, turned in his helmet and turned down a $3.6 million contract with the Cardinals for the beret of the United States Army. He was killed in 2004 by friendly fire while training in Afghanistan after his first tour of duty in Iraq.
The correlation is simple: honor, valor, success, country and football.
Oak Forest defensive end Hansen, with his 6.06 grade-point average, athletic ability and acceptance letters from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., shunned those Big Ten offers for a full ride from the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
He reported to basic training June 27. He will owe the Air Force five years after he completes his college degree. The nine-year commitment to the Air Force Falcons began as a different bird. Hansen was an Oak Forest Flag Football Eagle when he learned to play the game he loves so much.
When asked why he chose the Air Force Academy, Hansen said: “I want to be somebody people remember. This is my calling. I have a dream to play football, and to fly. The Air Force Academy gives me both opportunities.”
The humble only child of Karen Kalenowski and Chris Hansen was clearly moved when speaking of his parents, and their thoughts on him moving so far away.
“They understand this is an opportunity of a lifetime,” he said. “I have a dream, and they want me to be happy.”
Hansen spoke of the support and encouragement his parents have given him throughout his life, and of Oak Forest varsity football coach Brian McDonough.
“McDonough pushed me to be the best I could be on the field, in the weight room, but most importantly, in the classroom,” Hansen said.
Added McDonough: “Alex is a true leader in every sense of the word. He leads in the classroom and the athletic field. He is the finest role model I have been associated with in my 28 years of education. He has the innate ability to make those around him better.”
Hansen has a dream to fly, play football and to “be somebody people remember.” Dreams do come true, but they don’t come easily. Hard work and dedication clearly have paid off for Hansen.
After spending some time with Hansen, it would be hard for me to believe that people who come in contact with him won’t “remember him.” To excel at that level in the classroom and on the field should be an inspiration to all. However, there still was a sense of trepidation.
“I want my mom not to worry, and I need her to know that I’m OK,” Hansen said. “So, under the cushion of her favorite chair is a constant reminder that I’m OK; I need her to know that. Can you tell her that?”
You just did.
As motivational speaker and author Dennis Waitly said, “The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.”
In terms of Hansen’s mission accomplished, his parents should be very proud.
John Doolin is the South Division advertising director for Sun-Times Media.