By Jim Irish
The Collie family takes turns driving 16-year-old Hansen Collie an hour-and-a-half from Wimberley to Bastrop, Texas -- a 68-mile trek -- at least four days during the week to practice with Bastrop Tribe Consolidated, a six-man football team.
Some days, it’s older sisters, Hadyn and Calyn, behind the wheel. Other days, father, Bruce.
Hansen doesn’t have a driver’s licence yet, but even if he had one, the family wouldn’t allow him to drive alone. He doesn’t have a cell phone either.
In a sport that emphasizes size, strength, and speed, Hansen stands out at 6-foot-5½ and 240 pounds. He dropped 20 pounds once workouts began in the scorching Texas heat.
Last season as a freshman was his first in competitive football.
“(My) bones hadn’t fully matured and grown; there were a lot of chances I could break them,” Hansen said about his late introduction to the sport.
He spent the season in a backup role on offense but scored two touchdowns in blowout contests.
“My freshman season was learning the game of football,” he said. “It was a pretty cool experience.”
Genetics have played a major role in determining Hansen’s size. His father, Bruce, earned two Super Bowl rings in 1989 and 1990 as a 6-6, 275-pound offensive tackle on the San Francisco 49ers, preventing defenses from hammering quarterback Joe Montana. His paternal grandfather was a 6-3, 250-pound lineman at the University of South Carolina in the early 1950s before going to medical school.
Bruce has apparently had an impact on Hansen because the son wants to follow his father into the NFL.
“That’s my eventual goal,” Hansen said.
Hansen said his father never pressured him or his older brothers to play football.
“It’s always a fun sport to play, especially since (Dad) knows so much about it,” Hansen said. “I sit down with him, and I talk about it. He answers any questions I ask. How to block this guy. What angle to take on this one. How to pancake somebody.”
When asked what he enjoys most about the sport, Hansen said the “violence.”
“I’ve always loved lining up against a dude and just hitting him as hard as (I) can,” he added.
Bruce thinks Hansen’s goal of playing in the NFL is realistic. He said he grew three inches and added 60 pounds late in his senior year in high school. Hansen now is almost the same size as his father.
“That means he has two more years to grow,” Bruce said. “I think he might get to 6-7, 6-8. He’s just a puppy.”
Bruce prefers that Hansen play tight end rather than offensive or defensive lineman. Hansen has not been timed in the 40-yard dash, which Bruce said is not meaningful yet.
“Body control, change of direction, and explosiveness when you hit somebody are more important than the 40-yard dash,” Bruce said. “Tight end is his passion because he’s so good at catching and running the ball. He runs like a deer.
“I told him, ‘You’re going to be as big as (former Patriots Rob) Gronkowski, but you need to play like the (49ers) George Kittle. Don’t let them tackle you.’ ”
Hansen is eligible to play football for Wimberley High School, a few miles from the family’s home. That Wimberley advanced to the Class 4A state championship last year is a bonus. His brother-in-law, Moses Wray, returns this season as the star running back. Hansen would also receive more recognition in an 11-man program. But the Collies have homeschooled their 13 children (seven daughters, six sons). Bruce would support his children participating in UIL extracurricular activities at a public school if homeschoolers were allowed, but they are not. He was disappointed when the Tim Tebow Bill, which would have allowed homeschoolers to participate in UIL school activities, stalled in the Texas House in 2017.
The Tribe Consolidated Warriors are building a dynasty of sorts in six-man football. They are the three-time defending state champions in the Texas Association of Independent Athletic Organizations (TAIA0). Two of Hansen’s older brothers played for Tribe. The Collies like that Tribe espouses Christian values. All Tribe athletes are homeschooled.
Bruce said the reason that he and his wife, Holly, homeschool their children is that they want to be the major influencers who shape their lives. He recalls growing up a loose canon after his parents’ divorce when he was 13. At the University of Texas at Arlington, he had his cheek sliced open by a beer glass in a bar fight. In another incident, he was stabbed in the stomach in a parking lot but survived.
Later, he appeared to have it all with the 49ers: two 5½-carat diamond Super Bowl rings, two homes, six cars, and the attention of many attractive women.
“You keep climbing that ladder of success,” Bruce said. “I bought into all that.”
His world crashed after being unexpectedly traded to the Philadelphia Eagles the season after the second Super Bowl victory. Depressed, he called his mother, who pointed him to the Book of Psalms she had placed in his backpack. Soon after reading it, he said he recommitted his life to Jesus Christ and hasn’t looked back.
“People ask me all the time, ‘What’s the greatest thing that happened in your NFL career?’ and I tell them, ‘Getting fired from the 49ers,’ ” Bruce said. “They look at me like (I’m) crazy. God transformed my life when he sent me to the Eagles.”
When each of his children turns 13, the family holds a coming-of-age ceremony. Each receives a purity ring and is asked if he will follow Christ. A baptism then follows.
“We believe that you become a man (or a woman) in your mom and dad’s household, not at college,” Bruce said. “You don’t get sent off with a credit card at 17 or 18.
“(Hansen) is learning to be a man. You’re supposed to train them to be adults. There’s no such thing as a teenager. You’re either a child or a man, according to the (Bible).”
For his part, Hansen is eager about the upcoming season. Tribe head coach Brent Golemon said Hansen has “incredibly quick feet for a young man his size” and will play both sides of the ball.
“I’m looking forward to being a little bit more of a beast on the field, more aggressive,” Hansen said.
That could be a painful experience for anybody lining up against him.
Jim Irish works as contributing writer for GateHouse Media in the Austin, Texas area.