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Washington State’s venture into uncommon recruiting grounds pays off with Dylan Hanser

Washington State linebacker Dylan Hanser forces a fumble during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Pullman, Wash., Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. (Young Kwak / AP)
Washington State linebacker Dylan Hanser forces a fumble during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Pullman, Wash., Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. (Young Kwak / AP)

PULLMAN – Attention, helicopter parents. Washington State coach Mike Leach has finally divulged how any high school football player can increase his chances of getting offered a scholarship.

All it will take is a tolerance of loud engines at all times of a day. And really, five years of tuition, room and board is a pretty good return on an investment in some earplugs.

“The closer you live to an airport, the better your chances are (of getting recruited),” Leach said. “I think there are average guys who live near major airports that get scholarships, and I think there are some above average-to-superior guys who live in isolated areas that don’t and get overlooked.”

While there is an airport in Billings, where WSU rush linebacker Dylan Hanser grew up, the southern Montana town is far from being a major hub. Even though aviation is possible, college coaches still have to allocate resources when it comes to recruiting.

Not only do they have finite recruiting budgets, which encourage trips to cities where they might be able to visit six or seven prospect over a day or two, but there are only so many days when coaches can hit the recruiting trail, and only so many coaches allowed on the road.

Players such as Hanser who live in less populous states have to find ways to catch the eye of college coaches, and convince them that they are that much better than prospects who reside in easier to reach places.

Hanser stood out because he was a superlative track athlete. In 2013, Hanser went to the state championships in high jump where he won with a jump of 6-foot-4, placed second in the long jump with a jump of 21-foot-2, and placed third in the triple-jump at 43-foot-6 1/4. He was also an all-conference basketball player.

“I don’t think if I’d just played football, I would have had the recruitment that I did,” Hanser said.

A 6-foot-4, 210-pound high school kid jumping over a bar the same height as himself is mighty impressive. But Hanser still had to be more proactive than most when it came to recruiting, constantly calling and emailing coaches who were busy calling and emailing easier to find recruits.

“It was different for me because I had to go everywhere,” Hanser said. “My dad played college football and his friends are college coaches and they kind of mentored me through it. It’s not different, but you want to show everyone what you’ve got.”

On the advice of former WSU defensive coordinator John L. Smith, who coached Hansers’ father Scott briefly at Wyoming, Dylan Hanser hit the summer camp circuit.

That included WSU’s summer camp, where he impressed the coaches enough to earn a scholarship offer. When he accepted it, he also had an offer from Colorado State.

Hanser says that he believes many of his high school teammates could have played at a college somewhere, and that he gives advice to his little brother, who is currently trying to be recruited.

The Cougars must be happy they found Hanser. After two years of playing mostly on special teams, the junior has emerged as a playmaker at Rush linebacker. He has started five games and forced three fumbles, including two against UCLA to help preserve WSU’s 27-21 win.

(Hanser must have something against the Bruins – his biggest play heading into this season was a blocked punt in the Rose Bowl last year.)

And as recent suspensions have taken a toll on WSU’s front-seven depth, Hanser’s importance to the team has only grown. Which is all the more reason for WSU recruiters to occasionally stray from the usual flight paths.

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