His unassuming personality makes you forget he is a standout player, and his electrifying play makes you forget he is a freshman.
Hanson is the quintessential normal guy off the field: quiet, reserved, and noticeably polite. A human evolutionary biology concentrator and aspiring doctor, Hanson is truly dedicated to his schoolwork off the field. You can usually find him sporting an abnormally large backpack as he fixes his retainer with his index finger. Neither his size nor his demeanor gives off the typical airs of a football player, but his performances on the field tell the story.
“The kids love him, he’s one of the top five most sincerely humble guys on the team,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy said after the win against Princeton. “Schultzy, correct me if I’m wrong, but every time you see him you just want to hug him.”
“I don’t even know what to say to that, I guess I’m just cuddly,” Hanson responds.
On the field, a Hulk-like transformation occurs. Hanson goes from cuddly guy to Crimson beast after the first kick off and doesn’t stop until the last play.
The Boulder, Colo. native was not a part of a winning high school team.
“We were at the bottom of the league,” Hanson recalls. “But I think it helped me to learn how to be a standout player and a team player at the same time. I’m just happy to be on a winning team.”
In the first six games of his college career, Hanson has notched three turnovers, a fumble recovery, 21 tackles, six break-ups, and 32 post-interception yards. His efforts have earned him two Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors.
“It’s just amazing that he plays like a junior with only six games under his college football belt,” Murphy said. “A very impressive kid.”
With the loss of defensive backs Steve Williams, Doug Hewlett, and John Hopkins to graduation, the Crimson was in need of a fresh crop to take their place. Hanson was quick to fill the spot, stepping up from the first game onward.
Murphy sites Hanson’s knowledge of the game and his calmness as the reasons for his success on the field.
“I just don’t want to let the other guys down, and I know they don’t want me to let them down,” Hanson responds jokingly.
“I just try to prepare myself before the game,” Hanson adds. “I usually say a prayer before each game, it helps me to relax and get out my nervousness.”
Hanson’s play has been a pleasant surprise not only to Harvard fans but also Murphy as well.
“We thought he was one of our really outstanding recruits, but you never think that he can pick up the complexities, the nuances, and then play with mental toughness and poise,” Murphy said.
The rookie displayed his ability to pick up the nuances when he adjusted to make a spectacular diving interception off a Glenn Dorris tip during last week’s win over Princeton.
“Matt is the most mature kid we have physically and I guess athletically,” Murphy said. “He’s just one of those kids. He’s so poised; he’s so natural that he makes it look easy.”
The initial adjustment to college play was tough for Hanson, but in six games he has gone from a nervous rookie to an anxious contributor.
“It was tough adjusting at first. In college, the time commitment for football is a lot more than in high school, and the speed of play is so fast, I had to catch up,” Hanson says. ”In the first game against Holy Cross I was like a deer in headlights, my eyes were wide open. I was struck by it all, everything was just so startling. I’m a little better now, but I am still nervous.”
Hanson credits senior cornerback Andrew Berry for helping him make the transition.
“Andrew Berry has been a role model and sort of like a mentor,” Hanson says. “I roomed with him in camp, which I’m pretty sure wasn’t just a coincidence, and he is pretty amazing, he does it all.”
Hanson also draws inspiration from Berry off the field when times get tough.
“Whenever I don’t want to go to class or classes start getting to me, I think ‘What is Andrew Berry doing right now?,’ and I know I can get through it,” Hanson jokes.
Hailing from Colorado, Hanson is a dedicated Broncos fan. When asked who his favorite player is, Hanson quickly responds “Champ, Champ Bailey.”
“I try to model my style of play off of [Bailey] since he is a cornerback too,” Hanson says. “It’s all about anticipation and he anticipates everything.”
As much a fan as an athlete, Hanson has a love of all sports. When not on the field playing football, he can be found cheering on the Broncos, his high school team, or the Crimson.
“I’m a pretty crazy fan. In high school I used to go to basketball games completely covered in body paint to cheer on our team,” he says.
With a brilliant start to his Crimson career, who knows what’s in store for Hanson and his alter-ego.