Dec. 12, 2011
By Stuart Buchanan
Athletic Media Relations
FORT COLLINS, COLO. - Near the end of October in 2004 the Rams were 2-4 and coming off a win against San Diego State. It is safe to say that game was a life changer for Caleb Hanie.
CSU’s starting quarterback Justin Holland broke his ankle in the first quarter and Hanie led the Rams to a 21-17 upset over the Aztecs.
Hanie got his first career start the next week against rival Wyoming and the Rams won 30-7.
He started the final five games but Holland returned from injury and started all 12 games in 2005.
Fast forward to January of 2011.
The Bears are playing the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship and starting quarterback Jay Cutler sprained his medial collateral ligament. Second-string quarterback Todd Collins was ineffective so Head Coach Lovie Smith called upon Hanie to try and lead the Bears to the Super Bowl.
Hanie went 13-of-20 for 153 yards and a touchdown but it wasn’t enough. The Packers, who went on to win the Super Bowl, defeated the Bears 21-14.
During the following preseason Hanie earned the second-string spot for the 2011 season and on Nov. 20 he had another life-changing moment.
He watched from the sideline as Cutler led the Bears to a 31-20 victory over the San Diego Chargers. During the game Cutler broke his thumb on his throwing hand, requiring season-ending surgery.
Now, Hanie is the first-string quarterback for a team in the midst of a playoff race and there is more pressure on Hanie in comparison to 2004.
The Bears have lost three games in a row since losing Cutler but Hanie continues to improve.
On Sunday the Bears were less than two minutes away from defeating the streaking Broncos and giving Hanie his first career win. Unfortunately it didn’t happen the way Chicago fans would have liked.
The Broncos won 13-10 in overtime.
There were improvements though. It was Hanie’s first game that he didn’t commit a turnover.
“Ball security was pretty good,” Hanie said. “No turnovers today, so that was an improvement. We didn’t throw it very much because we were running the ball so well and our defense was stuffing them so well. I moved around in the pocket a little bit better today. I stepped up a lot better.”
Hanie, who went 12-for-19 for 115 yards, chose a good time to have his best game of the season. 20 of his closest friends and family members were in attendance.
“I gave out about 20 tickets,” Hanie said. “A couple former players; (Mike) Pagnotta, Jake Pottorff and Nick Oppenneer they all came down. I saw some of them last night. I saw Hammer (Dan Hammerschmidt) last night, too. It was good seeing him. I am glad they are out to support me.”
With Hanie showing improvements each game he will remain the starting quarterback for the Bears who are only one game out of the wildcard spot in the NFC.
With the most important stretch of the regular season upon him, he has still kept up with the recent news involving CSU.
“It is just going to take a collaborative effort from the university and the football program to commit to making CSU a top-tier program, where people want to go to the school,” Hanie said. “I think the new A.D. is a step in the right direction. He obviously has some good ideas and I heard he plans on putting a stadium on campus. That’s a great step and I hope that happens quickly.
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