A few more wins - no, let's be honest, a bunch more of them - plus a bowl game or three would have sent Tyler Hansen romping toward the exit of his college football career a bit merrier, a bit more fulfilled.
Through no fault of his own, Hansen's career at Colorado was as choppy as the Bering Strait. Forgive him for being confused during his first two seasons, when redshirts were yanked, giving him appearances in 13 total games (five in 2008, eight in 2009). A ruptured spleen cost him five games in 2010, leaving his final year as the last opportunity to play a full season and achieve some measure of closure - although he wouldn't put it like that.
He arrived at CU as a dual threat quarterback from Southern California, but he will play his final game at Folsom Field Saturday with the "dual" tag pretty much scrapped. Oh, he can still run, and will on occasion - as he did last Friday night against Southern California for 45 yards, 35 of them on one carry that took Buffs fans back to Hansen's early days against Kansas State in 2008 (19 carries for 86 yards in his first game action) and No. 17 Kansas in 2009 (his scrambling ability and passing keyed a 34-30 CU win).
If college stats were kept like NFL numbers, Hansen would have surpassed 1,000 yards rushing for his CU career. But because lost sack yardage factors into a college QB's rushing total, Hansen is at 425 yards instead of 1,047 for his four seasons.
Nevertheless, he's running less as a senior, mostly because CU's pro-style offense has him concentrating on running the offense and moving the chains as a passer. He's not opposed to that. Then there's the injury factor and the issue of him being the Buffs' only experienced QB . . . all good reasons for Hansen to cool his heels.
"I'm going through my progressions and they've asked me to check it down instead of run . . . I think that's the NFL mentality you have," he said. "You look at the NFL and there's maybe one or two guys that run the ball, really. The guys that are winning like Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay) and Tom Brady (New England), those guys are staying in the pocket and throwing the ball downfield. I think that's part of what coach (Rip) Scherer and coach (Eric) Bieniemy have brought to this offense. I'm able to use my feet a little bit on some naked stuff and boots, but me running downfield 20 times a game - that's not us."
With three games remaining in his college career, it's been a short, strange trip for Hansen, but an enjoyable one that he wouldn't trade or alter - even the yanked redshirts in '08 and '09. After his redshirt was pulled for the KU game in '09, Hansen made an immediate believer out of then-KU coach Mark Mangino, who lamented, "It's unfortunate they picked this week to take his redshirt off . . . I think they found their quarterback, that's for sure."
The Round One had a keen eye for talent, but maybe Hansen's talent was in the eye of the beholder. Waffling over whether he would start at CU continued through that season, the following spring and into the summer. But Hansen traveled the high road then as well as the season before, and he hasn't left it.
On Tuesday, when was asked if he would change those decisions to pull his redshirt, he answered without hesitation, "I would not. I think at the time, my true freshman year, I wanted to get in there, I wanted to play. I was itching to get on the field. I was totally fine with that.
"My second year . . . that was the hardest decision I probably had to make. We were 1-3 at the time. It was tough, real tough. I talked to a bunch of people about it before I made the final decision. It pretty much came down to not being guaranteed play ever again; you might get hurt tomorrow and never play football again. That's why I came here - to play football. When you have an opportunity to play, get on the field, you've got to take it. Now, I don't regret that decision at all and my family doesn't regret it."
The lone thing he does regret is not being able to spend another season with head coach Jon Embree, Scherer, Bieniemy and the other CU staffers. "I wish I could spend some more time here with those guys," Hansen said. "They have some great football knowledge and they're some great guys. They're doing all the right things here. That's the only thing - I wish I had more time with them."
In CU's win-challenged fall (1-9 overall, 0-6 Pac-12), Hansen has had a fairly productive season statistically. He's No. 23 nationally in passing (2,279 yards) and No. 31 in total offense (2,341). He's fifth on CU's career passing yardage list and is the seventh player in school history to surpass 2,000 passing yards in a season.
He believes he's a better quarterback now than when he arrived. In fact, he believes he's better now than he was a year ago - a belief based on the time spent with Embree, Scherer, Bieniemy & Co. This, said Hansen, is "the first year I've kind of played the position of quarterback. My first three years here I've just kind of been more of an athlete playing, kind of gone through my progressions, looked at my first and second reads and then took off (running).
"I think now I'm going through my reads, going through my progressions and playing the position of quarterback. This is the first year I've actually done that."
During his time at CU Hansen likely has learned as much in football as he has in the classroom - at least in those areas sometimes referred to as "life lessons." The adversity he faced during the uncertainty of his freshman and sophomore seasons, followed by his injury last year, have "made me mature quicker and kind of grow up," he said.
"I've learned to not take myself so seriously at times and to stay positive. There's been a lot of negative, a lot of negative. But, hey, you can find a positive in every situation. Every situation has something positive . . . that's the biggest thing I've learned through my experience here - stay positive, be happy, it's OK to laugh every once in a while and smile."
He'll try to do that Saturday at Folsom Field when his parents (Rick, Pamela) greet him on Senior Day, an afternoon Hansen already is describing as "surreal" because of the speed of its arrival.
"It goes by fast, I tell you," Hansen said. "Coach Embree tries to tell the young guys that every day. It's true; it flies by. I think Saturday is going to be emotional for most of us. We've gone through a lot here. It's going to be fun, we're looking forward to it."
Hansen figures on the afternoon being emotional for him and his parents, but he also believes it's nothing they can't handle after the previous three years. Hansen called them "the best anyone could ask for" and said the winding road that has been his CU career likely has been "toughest on them . . . going through what I've gone through. They've struggled at times, but they've stayed positive - especially my dad.
"I think this Saturday is going to be really emotional for those two. It's going to be kind of a tough experience to see them before the game because I bet they'll be crying . . . I can't thank them enough; they're the best."
Leaving CU with a winning record or finishing it out with a postseason trip won't happen, but Hansen is certain a positive legacy can be left by this senior class.
"We want to leave these underclassmen a three-game winning streak . . . we want to show them how to win and leave them on a winning note," he said. "We have that road losing streak (22 straight out-of-state losses). That's a big deal with us. We want to end that for sure. But we want to definitely send Coach Embree and his staff and all the young guys into next year with a three-game winning streak."
After seven consecutive losses, a three-game winning streak to close the season might seem a dream. But Hansen is convinced it can be done, and if he still can dream a little at this point, don't you think he's entitled?
BUFF BITS: With the Buffs playing last Friday night, Embree was able to get in a weekend mostly minus football, saying he "forced myself to try and be a human, be normal." When he reported back to work on Monday, he said he felt "energized and refreshed . . . I can imagine as a player what having two days off was like." . . . . CU has had its red zone difficulties; the Buffs settled for three field goal attempts (two were blocked) against USC and are last in the Pac-12 in red zone offense (18-of-26 scores, 69.2 percent). Said Embree of settling for field goals: "All field goal goals is make the cheerleaders do three pushups and the band to play; you're not going to win nothing. We have to get touchdowns so we can win." . . . . Embree believes "four or five" CU seniors could get a look in NFL camps, either through being drafted or free agency. He declined to name the seniors . . . . Arizona's secondary coach is former Buffs safety Ryan Walters, who worked under current CU defensive coordinator/secondary coach Greg Brown for one season in Tucson before Brown returned to CU. Walters is among the youngest assistant coaches in the nation . . . . Arizona's 2-7 overall record (1-6 Pac-12) is deceiving, said Embree, noting the Wildcats have run a similar gantlet to the Buffs. Arizona defeated Northern Arizona 41-10 in its opener, and its 48-12 rout of UCLA came in the first game after coach Mike Stoops was fired and replaced by interim coach Tim Kish. That was Oct. 20, and since then the Wildcats have lost at Washington (42-31) before returning to Tucson and losing to Utah (34-21) last weekend. Arizona is 0-4 on the road this season.