Montana Tech running back Pat Hansen quickly became a legend at Alumni Coliseum.
The Ekalaka star returned a kickoff 77 yards for a touchdown — on an 80-yard field — the first time he touched the ball on the field. He was playing for the Blue team in the Bob Cleverly Class C All-Star Football Game.
He added a 60-yard punt return and a 1-yard touchdown run while earning offensive MVP honors in the Blue’s 46-32 win.
In his next game at the stadium — 13 months later — Hansen put up 216 all- purpose yards and scored five touchdowns in Tech’s 50-47 win over Southern Oregon in the first game of the Chuck Morrell era.
That included a 25-yard walk-off touchdown in double overtime.
This season, the senior running back has a chance to make sure his legend at Montana Tech is set in stone.
Hansen enters his senior season just 775 yards shy of Don Heater’s career Montana Tech record of 4,385 rushing yards.
Heater, who’s No. 44 is retired at Montana Tech, ran wild at Alumni Coliseum from 1968 through 1971 — more than two decades before Hansen was born.
“When I first got here and started playing running back, I thought, ‘How cool would that be to be chasing after that record?,'” Hansen, who wears No. 24, said Thursday.
Hansen enters the season with 3,610 yards on 743 carries. He has averaged 4.9 yards per carry in his career.
He ran for 1,383 yards as a freshman, 1,218 as a sophomore and 1,009 as a junior. He has scored 35 touchdowns on the ground.
“Just to be healthy going into my senior year and have the opportunity itself is awesome,” Hansen said. “It’s something I think about. It’s one of my personal goals. I’m striving for it, but even better than that I’m just striving to do my best for my team game in and game out.”
Hansen is coming off — statistically speaking — his worst season as an Oredigger.
The new offensive coordinator seemed to veer away from Hansen in favor of the short passing game, and Hansen had four games with fewer than 20 carries.
He still managed to break the century mark in Tech’s final game of the season.
“It was little tough,” Hansen said of not being the focal point of the offense. “But being a team player is doing what the coaches tell you to do. I was happy to that.”
Morrell, Tech’s fourth-year head coach, said his star running back is about a lot more than statistics.
“You can appreciate Pat as a football player. That’s an easy thing to do,” Morrell said. “But to really appreciate the young man is to know how he operates off the field, what kind of leadership he brings to the team. He’s one that is at the forefront pushing us both on and off the field.”
Pete Serbick is the new offensive coordinator this year, and Hansen and Morrell feel the running back is primed for a big-time season.
“I’m really excited about the new scheme we got in,” Hansen said. “We mix it up a lot. We’re going to get the opportunity to run the ball and pass the ball efficiently.
“You’ve got to have a balanced attack and a good blocking scheme. I feel like we have that,” Hansen said. “We have a lot of talent on this team right now, and with this new scheme I feel like we’re going to do some good things.”
The 5-foot-9, 182-pound Hansen has a lot of strengths on the football field. On top of the list has to be his elusiveness. The running back rarely seems to take a hard hit.
“There’s definitely been a few shots,” Hansen said with a laugh before acknowledging there hasn’t been a ton. “That’s part of my game. It’s just always been how I played, avoid the big shots and attack the creases and seems of the opposing team’s weakest point.”
Hansen, who will graduate in mining engineering in May, is hoping to keep it that way in 2014 because he has some lofty goals for his final season. Catching Heater is only part of that.
“Even more than my personal goal is getting back on top of the conference and getting to the playoffs again,” Hansen said. “That’s where we need to be, and that’s what the expectation is.”