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Jake Hansen

A Few Minutes With Illinois football player Jake Hansen

Illinois linebacker Jake Hansen, recently put on the Butkus Award watch list for the nation's best linebacker, about his degree in kinesiology, his grad work with Recreation, Sport and Tourism, and his NFL future.

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VINCE LARA: Hi, and welcome to another edition of A Few Minutes With, the podcast that showcases Illinois's College of Applied Health Sciences. I'm Vince Lara. And today, I'm speaking with football star Jake Hansen, who recently graduated from the kinesiology program and is now a grad student in RST. We talk about football, AHS, and the future. I am going to start and ask you about football first, because I worked for rivals for a while, and I'm interested.


VINCE LARA: So you're from Florida. Your dad went to BYU and played football there. So how did Illinois get on your radar?

JAKE HANSEN: So I was committed. Beginning of my senior year, I committed to Iowa State and committed there for a bit. And then they changed staffs, and I had to decommit because basically I didn't have an offer from them anymore. And then I was uncommitted for about a month, and then Illinois offered me.

And I came on a visit here. And I pulled the trigger because I loved it. But another big part of for me, I knew I was a Power Five linebacker. I knew that I could compete at the highest level. And Illinois was my biggest offer. So I took it.

VINCE LARA: Yeah. Did it have to do with Coach Lovie? Or was it anything particular about the staff?

JAKE HANSEN: I like the staff, but Coach Smith wasn't there when I initially committed. He was hired in February. And I had already signed. So I was already locked in here, so I didn't really have a choice, to be honest with you.

VINCE LARA: Gotcha. Last year, you were a semifinalist for the Butkus Award. You're on the Watch List this year. And since you're an Illini and for what Dick Butkus did for this area and the kind of star he was here and the legend he was here, does it mean more for you as an Illini to be on that list?

JAKE HANSEN: Of course. And it's something you just want to carry on. For me, to be honest, I'm not completely externally motivated by someone else being on the list and the fact that they went here or it's being named after them. For me, it's more about the-- I'm kind of internal motivated. I just do it for myself no matter where I was. Do you know what I mean?

VINCE LARA: Yep, I totally understand that. All right, let me move on to the academics, because that to me is the really interesting part as somebody who works for AHS. And we have our fair share of athletes in this program. There's a lot of guys in RST. I'm wondering why you picked AHS and particularly why you picked kinesiology as your major.

JAKE HANSEN: So I'm really interested in exercise and how the body moves and different biomechanics and things like that. So that was something that really got my attention early. I applied in high school because I knew at some point in my life I kind of want to do like train guys and train professional athletes and that kind of deal and eventually own my own gym and have guys come in for Combine prep type things. So I can get guys ready for that type of thing. So that's stuff that really interests me a lot.

VINCE LARA: Yeah, but football, obviously, is the main goal, correct?

JAKE HANSEN: Of course, yeah.

VINCE LARA: OK, all right, so you're thinking down the line some place, your tenure all-pro career is over. And Jake Hansen says to himself, I'm going to start a gym thanks to my kinesiology degree.

JAKE HANSEN: Yeah, hopefully that. But I have to plan. If I can do that, maybe I won't have to do any type of work after that. But yeah, football, of course, is my number one goal right now over getting into the actual workforce. But yeah, the degree is great for my later life and moving on past that.

VINCE LARA: Yeah. Now, you're scheduled to graduate this semester.

JAKE HANSEN: I already graduated.

VINCE LARA: Oh, you did. Oh, that's fantastic. Yeah, congrats, man. So are you planning?

JAKE HANSEN: Thank you much.

VINCE LARA: What's your grad degree? I'm assuming you're going to go to grad school then.

JAKE HANSEN: Yeah, I'm in a grad program currently. I'm in the RST one, RST.

VINCE LARA: So that's great to talk to you about both of those programs. Let me ask you this. The professors you had in kinesiology, who were your-- let me say it this way. Who had the most impact on you do you feel?

JAKE HANSEN: The most impact, honestly, I would probably say Professor Boppart because she was one of the first classes that got into how you metabolize macronutrients. And that was really interesting to me. And I had to study really hard for her class. And she was really cool the whole time, and we had a good relationship. So I would say Professor Boppart.

VINCE LARA: Gotcha. And you haven't started your RST program yet, right? But what made you be?

JAKE HANSEN: No, I have started. I have started it.

VINCE LARA: Oh, you have started. OK, what made you--

JAKE HANSEN: I'm in summer classes right now.

VINCE LARA: Oh, wow, that's fantastic. So what made you pick RST? Is it just you like the sports aspect of it, like where that leads?

JAKE HANSEN: Yeah, the RST, and it's a lot. Right now, we're learning a lot about event management, so like going over that type of thing. I think it's really important to be able to manage events and put on different events and to create experiences for different people. So that's important. And it's something that I'm learning a lot about every day, and I'm enjoying it a lot.

VINCE LARA: What was your favorite course in kinesiology? Was it the course you took with Professor Boppart? Or was it something else that you had?

JAKE HANSEN: I would probably say the most interesting one was that one, yeah, that one and I really liked learning more-- it was really about exercise. We studied a lot about exercise. I can't remember the professor's name. But we studied a lot about different type of muscle movement and things like that and different types of way to exercise and how much protein intake you need for different types of athletes, like endurance athletes or performance athlete.

So both those courses really interested me. Nutrition is something I'm really interested in as well. I just didn't really have time to do the nutrition. I was thinking about doing a nutrition minor with it. But with football and everything, it was kind of a big course load as well. And I didn't have a ton of time with that.

VINCE LARA: How do you expect to manage being a grad student and all the demands of football? I know your program is going to be online I'm assuming, right?

JAKE HANSEN: Yeah, it is going to be online.

VINCE LARA: So I think some athletes, they don't realize that the amount of work that goes into school as well. So how are you managing both of those things?

JAKE HANSEN: For me, I learned kind of my freshman year, really, how to do that. There was a couple little road bumps. I had to drop a couple of classes. And that taught me how I needed to time manage things.

And I think it's just by now, I'm kind of experienced on how to do it and how to set up my work week and know when I have to log in to Compass or whatever site that the class is on basically. So I'd say just learning from early and learning from some of my mistakes and just communicating with all the people that are trying to help you, because there's a lot of people in your corner, especially here at Illinois.

VINCE LARA: Yeah, that's for sure.

VINCE LARA: I'd be remiss not to ask about how COVID is affecting you both in what you hope is your professional career and in school. So you're back on campus, I'm assuming. You're training, right, with the team?

JAKE HANSEN: Sorry, can you repeat that? I was gone for a sec.

VINCE LARA: Yeah, you're back on campus now and training with the team.

JAKE HANSEN: Yeah, yeah, back on campus.

VINCE LARA: So how is that going to work? Do you expect to play football this fall? And if not, would you play in the spring?

JAKE HANSEN: That's a good question. And there's a lot of-- so I expect to play football in the fall. The closer we get, like a couple months ago, I was a little bit skeptical. I was like, I don't know, man. We're getting closer, and I didn't think-- I don't know.

But the closer we get, I think people are really pushing for football this year. And I think that we're going to play. I'm excited for it, and I'm expecting to play. And I'm fully prepared to.

But if it were to get canceled, there's a lot of variables that go into that. Like you said, it could be in the spring. It could get completely canceled, and I'd need to maybe having to take another year of eligibility. It just depends on what the NFL schedule is as far as the Combine and Pro Day and if they want to move because we moved.

And it's a lot of variables that go into that. So it's a lot of like what-ifs. And I'm trying to avoid playing in the what-if game right now. So it's up in the air right now, you know?

VINCE LARA: Right. Some of your teammates and now former teammates were in RST. So Brandon Peters is an RST student. And Oluwole Betiku was RST and now with the Giants.

So do you communicate with those guys about like what they're thinking about with football, and especially with Oluwole, because he's now in the NFL? He's now with a team. Do you ever ask those guys how it goes at this point for what's next, especially Oluwole, because he's actually gone through this?

JAKE HANSEN: Honestly, I haven't talked to Wole a ton about it. I talked to Brandon a little bit more. I just asked him what's the course. What's the course load? How is it? Do you like it? Do you enjoy the classes? And he's here now still, obviously. So we have a good relationship. So it was through Brandon for me to ask him about what it's like. And he enjoyed it, so it was kind of a no-brainer after that.

VINCE LARA: Gotcha. My thanks to Jake Hansen. For more podcasts on Illinois' College of Applied Health Sciences, search A Few Minutes With on iTunes, Spotify, IHeartRadio,, and other places you get your podcast fix. Thanks for listening, and see you next time.

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