Burrell alum Josh Hanna a part of historic football season at Gallaudet
By Bill West
Published: Friday, Nov. 29, 2013, 12:56 a.m.
Near the core of a one-of-a-kind NCAA football team was a Burrell alum who served the rarest of roles during the past four seasons.
Gallaudet's team consists of players who are deaf or hard of hearing. One of its starting wide receivers, 6-foot-2, 197-pound senior Josh Hanna, dedicated the bulk of his playing time to blocking rather than pulling in receptions.
Hanna, a 2010 Burrell graduate who is hard of hearing, became an inspirational figure within a program that captivated the nation for a few weeks this fall. Gallaudet, relying on a run-heavy option offense, won nine straight games on its way to the school's first appearance in the NCAA Division III playoffs — no other men's team in the university's 149-year history has made an NCAA postseason tournament.
ESPN, the Washington Post, CBS Sports and other media outlets documented Gallaudet's historic season, which ended Nov. 23 with a 34-7 first-round loss to Hobart.
The loss capped Hanna's career, which included 26 starts. Hanna, who also started at long snapper as a junior and senior, finished with five receptions for 41 yards.
“It has always been a dream of mine to play football at the next level,” Hanna wrote in an email. “Before coach (Chuck Goldstein) came knocking on my door, I didn't see myself playing football again after high school. But after learning more about what Gallaudet had to offer, I decided to pursue my dream and play for the Bison.”
Until Hanna arrived at Gallaudet in Washington, D.C., he relied on lip reading and limited audio input to communicate with those around him. Hard of hearing since at least age 4, Hanna can detect most sounds — he cannot hear high frequencies, including a referee's whistle. But what he hears still is considerably less than what someone with no limitations picks up.
Late in his senior year, Hanna found out about Gallaudet and added it to his list of college options, which also included Clarion, Slippery Rock and Penn State.
“I chose Gallaudet because I wanted to experience something new,” Hanna wrote. “I never had the opportunity to receive direct communication from my teachers, so I would miss a lot of information in class lectures. I felt that Gallaudet provided the best opportunity for me to learn in an environment that best fit me.
“I also wanted to surround myself and become a part of the deaf culture, which I never had the opportunity to do growing up.”
Just before the start of his freshman year, Hanna went through a five-week program that taught him American Sign Language.
Hanna's arrival coincided with Goldstein's first season as Gallaudet's coach.
“He was just waiting to develop an identity,” said Goldstein, who counted Hanna among his first recruits. “I knew just from meeting him and seeing that he was quiet and low-key, he was what Gallaudet represents. I knew if he gave us the chance, he'd grow and develop into a leader. And that's exactly what he did.”
Initially recruited to play outside linebacker or defensive back, Hanna moved to wide receiver about two weeks into training camp.
Enter the “Blocking Machine,” Hanna's nickname among teammates.
“I like to play physically, so that was a major benefit to me,” he wrote. “I have never been a person of individual statistics, but I would do whatever I could to help my team win.”
Hanna's satisfaction with his blocking went so deep that he even created a four-minute highlight reel this season.
“Not only did he accept (his role), he made it easier for other wide receivers to go ahead and take pride in what they do,” Goldstein said. “We graded every game film, and his average grade for the season was in the mid-90s. He helped extend plays.”
This season, Gallaudet led Division III in average time of possession (35 minutes per game) and was fourth in rushing yards per game (313).
“Seeing this program be built from almost the bottom my freshman year, and then being able to experience a finish like this, nothing is more sweet than that,” Hanna wrote. “It's almost like adding a cherry to the top of an ice cream sundae.”
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Garden Q&A: Firecracker vine OK for trellis?
- Starkey: Penguins’ arrogance astounding
- Matt Calvert’s goal in double OT evens series for Blue Jackets
- Second-period short-handed goal gives Blue Jackets momentum
- Real estate notes: Work on expansion to Pediatric Specialty Hospital to begin
- Shaler track star Schwartz in class of her own
- Tax law proves its worth by bringing in lost revenue
- Draftees’ longevity key for NFL success
- Saturday essay: Resurrection
- Mail for IRS delivered to Squirrel Hill home
- Penguins’ Gibbons scores twice but leaves with apparent injury