2019 OG Jesse Hanson has grown up just a few miles down I-81 from Virginia Tech, but he's never considered himself a Hokies fan — yet, with a Virginia Tech offer in hand, that could change soon enough.
The junior out of Daleville's Lord Botetourt HS says he's the son of a pair of Clemson alums, so he's always been more of a Tigers fan than anything else. In an area full of Tech fans (not to mention the odd UVA or West Virginia backer), that's often made him a bit of an outlier.
Recently, Dabo Swinney's success has helped Hanson have the last laugh among his fellow college football enthusiasts. But he certainly remembers the days when the Tigers weren't quite the powerhouse program they are today, so he's developed a healthy respect for Tech's football legacy.
"I definitely heard all about them and got some smack talk when I was a younger kid," Hanson told The Key Play. "It's definitely a great offer to have, an exciting offer to have."
But Hanson only earned that Hokies offer recently, with Justin Fuente and company pulling the trigger just a few days before he made the "easy" drive down 81 to see Tech square off against Pittsburgh on Nov. 18.
"I only live like 45 minutes away, so it's a nice, short trip," Hanson said.
Given his proximity to campus, the visit wasn't Hanson's first to Blacksburg — he says he swung by for a spring practice this year, then followed that up with a camp visit this summer — but it was his first time getting to see a game in Lane Stadium.
"The whole 'Enter Sandman' entrance is always great, how the stadium holds in all the sound and everything," Hanson said. "And the end of the game was insane, with the four stops in a row to keep them out of the end zone on the 1-yard line, that was pretty good."
The game's harrowing final sequence certainly set the stadium (and the Virginia Tech sideline) on edge, and Hanson has no problem imagining how that must've felt for all the fans in attendance — he remembers feeling the same thing just a few weeks prior.
"We actually had a stop like that earlier this season for my team, so I know how insane it is to be in that scenario," Hanson said. "So I guess I was a little more locked in watching it happen, but it was definitely a pretty great experience."
It helped, too, that he got a chance to talk with Fuente at midfield before the game started, and have a quick chat with offensive line coach Vance Vice and tight ends coach/special teams coordinator James Shibest during the pregame meal. Hanson says his would-be future position coach was particularly complimentary about his tape this season as Vice laid out exactly why the Hokies decided to offer him.
"Coach Vice, one thing he's told me repeatedly is how much he loves my toughness and will to grind," Hanson said. "He just likes how physical and tough I am. He told me he needs more guys like me on the team to really change the mentality."
Hanson says the Hokies have yet to give him any indication where he might play on the line should he come to Virginia Tech, though he expects he'd play guard, as that's where most schools interested in his services project him playing at the next level. He stands at about 6'4", 290 pounds, and is listed as a guard on most recruiting sites — he's rated a 3-star prospect by the 247Sports Composite ranking.
Yet Hanson says he mainly plays tackle at Lord Botetourt these days, and occasionally handles snaps during practice, so he's willing to be flexible.
Even if the visit didn't yield much clarity about where the Hokies see him fitting in along the line, Hanson says it did give him first real chance to explore campus and Blacksburg a bit more.
"My dad made a point to show me around campus this time, which I appreciated," Hanson said. "So I got to see the different buildings and memorials and the bookstores, the strip with all the different stores and restaurants. I enjoyed that."
But Hanson is still itching to get back to campus sooner rather than later, and he's already planning on another trip for a junior day event in January.
Though he certainly has other schools he'd like to see in person — he's hoping to visit UVA, West Virginia and perhaps even Iowa State this spring — Hanson's proximity to Blacksburg makes it an easy choice for him to return to Virginia Tech before doing anything else.
"Coach Vice said that it'd be a good time to really see how I fit with the team and different things like that," Hanson said.