WINTHROP — Jared Hanson first heard the criticism when he became the starting quarterback for the Winthrop football team two years ago.
He couldn’t read defenses quick enough. He panicked under pressure. He wouldn’t go through all his reads. He’ll never stick.
“Whenever I heard people say that, and I heard it a lot, it always pushed me to get better,” Hanson said. “People would say it, and I was like, ‘yeah, well, I’ll prove to you that I’m not that player.’ ”
Now in his third season as starting quarterback with the program, which this year merged with Monmouth, Hanson defers to his play to all the talking for him.
The Winthrop senior is coming off one of the best performances of his career last Saturday, when he completed 15 of his 18 passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns in a pivotal 18-13 win over rival Oak Hill.
He’s completed 21 of 38 passes for 309 yards and four touchdowns this season.
Winthrop (4-0) is the only undefeated team in Western D Campbell Conference and Hanson has established himself as one of the better quarterbacks in Western D Campbell Conference.
“When he has confidence, he can throw the ball very, very well,” Winthrop/Monmouth coach Joel Stoneton said. “Everything has come together perfectly for him. He’s become extremely dangerous, in my opinion.”
Yet, nothing has come easy on the football field for Hanson.
He had to win the starting job his sophomore season and would’ve had to do it again his junior year had there been a viable candidate.
Then, this summer, he had to do it again.
“It’s OK,” he said. “I was used to it.”
Hanson emerged as the starter out of each competition — he beat out Monmouth senior DJ McHugh this year.
In his sophomore season, Hanson edged out Austin Proctor, who later transferred to Lisbon.
When Hanson tried out for the job, he was as raw as a young player could get.
“We knew it was going to be a project because he was a sophomore,” Stoneton said. “He was battling it out with another sophomore and he won it out. Jared could throw a longer ball, and that was kind of the difference. We knew we’d go forward with him and we started to develop him.”
Hanson could always throw the deep ball and his running ability served him well come evaluation time. But there were holes in his game, some more obvious than others, and it took time for the maturation process to play out.
“Nothing really stood out,” Stoneton said. “He had a lot to prove to his doubters and to himself. One of the things he told me when we first moved him to quarterback was that he loved playing running back. We knew once he developed the football smarts we’d be able to do some things — like run him.
“What we saw in him was speed and a great arm. He’s a fighter and he’s taken over the offense for us.”
Hanson acknowledged it took some time to learn not just the offense but how to read defenses. Now, he says he’s in a comfort zone directing the offense.
“My first year, the coaches would tell me who to throw to,” he said. “They would just say, ‘throw here’ or ‘throw there.’ As the years have gone by, I can read defenses and I can see where the safety will be. I am a lot more confident. I had to learn how to stay calm. I had to learn to not get all fidgety, to not feel rushed. Once I knew how to stay calm, I could find the open spots.”
His teammates agreed.
Mario Meucci, a standout receiver for the Ramblers, said it’s been fun to watch Hanson develop into the quarterback he is today.
“He’s come a long ways,” he said. “He has confidence in us and he uses his eyes better. He calls the plays up front and he’s very comfortable back there now. The biggest thing that he figured out was that we have his back.”
Added senior running back Zach Glazier: “He’s become a leader for us. He’s just stepped his game up over the years. It’s been good to see.”
The Ramblers are off to their best start since they opened the 2010 season with six straight victories. They’ve defeated Lisbon, Old Orchard Beach and now Oak Hill — three strong teams that appear playoff-bound.
In this season of redemption — the program went 5-11 combined over the last two seasons — Stoneton knows Hanson and his deep core of receivers will play bigger roles moving forward. Meucci, Brandon Goff, Dakota Carter and Drew Stratton have emerged as go-to threats for Hanson in the passing attack.
“He wanted to show his team that he can do it,” Stoneton said. “He wanted the team to rally round him, and it has. He’s embraced the offense. He’s taken a hold of the offense and made it his own. He audibles and is making the right reads. He controls the huddle now.”