Thiadric Hansen is one of the lucky ones.
Along with quarterback Chris Streveler (Arizona Cardinals) and defensive back Winston Rose (Cincinnati Bengals), Hansen is the only other player from last season’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers roster currently playing professional football.
The 27-year-old defensive end from Flensburg, Germany was granted his release by the Bombers at the end of August so he could sign a deal with one of the top European clubs: the Wroclaw Panthers of the Liga Futbolu Amerykanskiego (LFA) in Poland.
Hansen, who primarily played on special teams for the Bombers in his first CFL season, is putting up massive numbers in Poland. The 6-2, 243-pound lineman has nine sacks, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, two interceptions and two defensive touchdowns in four games. With Hansen leading the charge, the Panthers have allowed one touchdown and are beating teams by 50-plus points.
But don’t expect Hansen to show some mercy to opposing offensive lineman any time soon.
“I don’t want to slow down. I have it in my contract that I get paid for turnovers and sacks,” said Hansen with a laugh.
So, is it safe to say he’s the Willie Jefferson of Poland?
“A smaller version, yes,” he said of being compared to the outstanding Blue Bombers defensive end.
Hansen said it’s a blessing to play this fall when so many of his CFL teammates have no option to play.
Hansen’s numbers clearly show he’s a man amongst boys and he’d be the first to admit it. Don’t get it wrong, he’s having a good time giving quarterback’s nightmares, but he’s more concerned with honing his skills so he can return to the CFL better than ever.
One of the main reasons why he signed with the Panthers is because their defensive line coach is an American — former Northwestern University player Demetrius Eaton. Hansen has requested some tough love from the coach, since he’s making it look easy in games.
“It’s a huge difference. For me, the competition during the games, not to sound cocky, but there’s no competition,” said Hansen, who had a sack, five defensive tackles and two forced fumbles as a rookie in Winnipeg. The Bombers selected Hansen with the second-overall pick in the first-ever CFL European draft prior to the 2019 campaign.
“I’m lucky that I moved here with a friend, Sven Breidenbach (a standout at the German CFL combine in January), so we face each other in practice. That’s helped me a lot… Pretty much he’s the only test when it comes to offensive lineman here. It’s weird to say but the competition here in Poland, you can’t even compare it. It’s not even close.”
Hansen’s taken on a new role in more ways than one. His success last season made him the poster boy for the CFL’s global initiative and now his Polish teammates often look to him for advice.
“I’m learning to be a more vocal guy. With my experience, they ask me for a lot of stuff. Doesn’t matter if they’re linebackers or defensive line, they all come to me,” he said.
“I’m one of the guys that’s responsible for making sure we have good energy at practice and everybody runs to the ball. It’s a new situation for me and I’m feeling more comfortable with it as I’m usually not a vocal guy. I see how necessary it is and also the coaches are expecting me to be that player, so maybe it’ll help me to grow my game a little bit.”
Owing to COVID-19, Hansen didn’t have too many options to play football this fall. There are other leagues operating in Denmark, Sweden and Finland, but Hansen opted for Poland as it featured a seven-game season.
Players have their temperature checked before practices and games and Hansen isn’t aware of any positive cases of the coronavirus popping up in the league. The Panthers play their final regular-season game this week before the playoffs begin.
As for when the LFA season wraps up, Hansen will return to Germany and work at a gym. He also plans on chatting with Bombers general manager Kyle Walters as Hansen is scheduled to become a CFL free agent in February.
If it were up to Hansen, and if there’s a CFL season next summer, he would be playing for the defending Grey Cup champions.
“It felt like a second home and they took care of me. They gave me many chances and I’m very thankful for that. My goal when I get there is I want to play all special teams… Get more snaps on the defensive line rotation and win the Grey Cup again.”
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.
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