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Ex-Griz Hancocks: like father, like sons
Kansas brothers Tanner and Tate Hancock traveled far from home to have successful football careers with the Montana Grizzlies.
Rod Hancock had a big influence on the athletic endeavors of his daughter and sons. It’s obvious he also had some influence on the boys when it came to choosing a career.
Rod is a chiropractor in Salina, Kans. Son Tanner, who played football for the Montana Grizzlies in 1999 and 2000, has had his own practice in Wichita for about three years.
By the end of December there will be two more Hancocks in the chiropractic field. Tate, who played for the Grizzlies from 2001 to 2004 after redshirting in 2000, and younger brother Heath, will graduate from the same chiropractic school in Dallas and embark on their careers.
Tanner was pretty sure going into college that he would follow in his dad’s footsteps, so he geared his educational plan toward it, first for three years at the University of Kansas and then at UM.
After getting his bachelor’s degree in health and human performance he earned a second degree in human anatomy before moving on to Parker College of Chiropractic in Dallas, where Tate and Heath currently are enrolled.
Tate wasn’t quite so sure. He started out in pre-med but ended up with a finance degree. But after finishing school and going through job interviews in Denver and San Diego he decided to do “the chiropractic thing.”
Tanner had much more of an influence on the decision than his father did.
Living in Dallas has proven to Tate that it is indeed a small world.
“I’d been living in Dallas a couple of months and walked outside my apartment to go run an errand,” Tate recalled, “and I see a big guy walking a little dog.”
Tate told a schoolmate with him at the time that the man looked like a former college football teammate. Sure enough, it was offensive lineman Cory Procter, at the time a backup center for the Dallas Cowboys.
“He was living in my apartment complex in the building next to me,” Tate marveled. “In all of Dallas we run into each other.”
But that’s not all. There are three students at Parker College that Tate played against in college. One was a safety for Northwestern State of Louisiana, a team Montana hosted three times in the I-AA playoffs during Hancock’s career.
“When I went home I got the (2004 game) film and looked at it, and he was guarding me like the whole game,” Tate said, noting that the other two also played defense against him.
While his dad was a coach and mentor Tanner chose to strike out on his own rather than partner with him. Whether or not he would eventually practice with Tate and/or Heath is something he would entertain once they graduate.
Tanner does plan to stay in Wichita, at least for the foreseeable future.
“I think in this field you spend so much of your time - especially early in your career - building relationships and getting people well,” Tanner noted. “It kind of becomes a snowball effect as far as patient base, and I think it’s probably in most people’s best interest to stick around and stay for the long haul.”
Tate isn’t sure where he will land once he finishes school in December.
“I might go back to Wichita and maybe get some experience (with Tanner), and then I’m gonna kind of look at the Denver area,” Tate said. “And then I’ve also looked at going back to Missoula maybe and . . . I was gonna look at Boise a little bit.”
Tate said he misses being near the mountains, so that likely will play a role in deciding where to practice.
Tanner said education about chiropractic is extremely important because so many people see it only as popping joints, realigning spines and so forth.
“I knew it was great for aches and pains,” Tanner said about growing up with chiropractic in his family, “but the thing that I just love to see the most is (when) people come in with problems that they never expect a chiropractor could help them with.
“And in fact a lot of times they don’t even tell me about those problems, and after a treatment program they (say), ‘you know, I’ve had this forever. Could this help me with that?’”
The problems Tanner talked about include everything from sinus and allergy conditions to digestive problems to headaches and many other things people ordinarily don’t associate with a chiropractor but can be complicated by stress to the nervous system.
“We do treat a lot of children here,” Tanner went on, “so we get to see them respond so fast with things like ear infections and (colic) and things like that, so it’s just a great, natural healing art.”
Tanner came to Montana to finish his football career because of unhappiness at KU.
“We were certainly not the team they have nowadays,” he said of the Jayhawks of the late 1990s. “We lost a lot of our players. A lot of the things that we had going on weren’t very good.”
A converted high school running back, Tanner said he was the second leading receiver for Kansas one season with a whopping 16 receptions.
“I did not want to sit out a year,” Tanner said. “I either wanted to continue playing for a team or maybe just not play at all.”
Montana had been in the back of his mind since he had watched the Grizzlies on television in a national championship game against Marshall.
“I just loved how they spread it out and flung the ball around,” Tanner recalled. “And I thought, ‘wow, what a great place for a receiver.’”
Tanner also loved the outdoors.
Three days after visits within one week to Montana, Northern Arizona and Southwest Missouri State he was in a car on his way to Missoula.
“I think my mom spent most of the night sobbing (that) her son was gonna go away to a place far away,” Tanner said.
As it turned out Rod and Audra fell in love with Montana the first time they came to Missoula. They were in Washington-Grizzly Stadium for nearly every home game that Tanner and Tate played there and still listen to Griz games on the Internet.
Tate’s first direct exposure to Missoula and Grizzly football was watching Tanner’s first home game here in 1999.
“The crowd (and) the whole atmosphere there, and then everything else that Missoula has to offer was kind of the main factor,” Tate said of his decision to come to UM. “(And) I’d never gotten to play any sport with Tanner until my freshman year.”
Both Tanner and Tate had to make the adjustment from running back to receiver. Both became very successful catching the football and gaining yards after the catch. Tate actually played running back early in his career at Montana but a shoulder injury helped point him in the direction of becoming a receiver.
“It took me some getting used to,” Tate said of the position change. “I definitely wasn’t a very good receiver when I started. After two-a-days they (the coaches) even talked about moving me back to running back.
“I think that kind of fired me up a little bit and by the third game of the season I was starting at the second slot receiver,” Tate recalled.
Both Tanner and Tate were at Montana’s 2000 national championship game loss to Georgia Southern, Tanner as a player and Tate as a redshirt freshman. Tate got one up on his older brother by starting in the Grizzlies’ 13-6 national championship win over Furman a year later.
Both loved the experience of playing for a national title, win or lose.
Like so many other people at the time Tanner felt that - if the game had lasted five more minutes - Montana would have pulled a win over embattled Georgia Southern.
Both ended their careers with losses in national championship games. Tate’s came against James Madison in 2004 on a torn-up field in Chattanooga.
“I never wanted to go back and watch that game,” Tate said, “but finally one Saturday afternoon I put it (the video) in and watched. After watching . . . I actually called all my old roommates that played. It still upsets me.”
Both Tanner and Tate have been back to Missoula for a number of games and still enjoy the great friendships they made while playing Grizzly football.
Tanner especially stays in touch with T.J. Oelkers, who now lives in Boise, Idaho but was Hancock’s roommate in Dallas for a couple of years.
Tate stays in touch with guys like Blake Horgan, Jonny Varona, Nick Vella, Jon Talmage, Brent Meyers and Chris Snyder.
At UM’s 2007 Homecoming the Hancocks had dinner with about 15 former teammates and caught up on everybody’s lives.
Both Tanner and Tate are single and - at this point anyway - with no serious prospects of marriage.
The other thing they share is the fondest of memories of their time playing Grizzly football.
“It’s hard to explain to people around here because people aren’t really familiar with I-AA (football),” Tanner said. “They’re not familiar with the atmosphere that Montana provides as far as the energy of the crowd and the willingness of people (in Montana) to support their Griz.
“I can’t imagine playing at another place or making that decision to stick around (at Kansas) and miss out on the opportunity that I had,” he continued. “Just an excellent career. I got to play under some excellent coaches . . . and play with some unbelievable players.
“It’s not just a football team in Montana. It’s a way of life for people. I just had a great time with it all.”
He won’t get an argument from Tate.
“I think about it all the time,” Tate said. “I wish I could get back for more games up there. I know my family dearly misses the games up there. We made so many good friends.
“The people up there (are) just so nice and warm and accepted us,” he went on. “The years I spent there were amazing. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do was drive out of Missoula. (I) didn’t want to leave (but ) I know I had to get some other things going with my career.
“Every year I go back for a game it gets harder and harder to leave. Sometimes I don’t want to go back because I know I have to leave.”
Ex-Griz Hancocks: like father, like sons
(Link to original article includes link to full audio interviews)
By BILL SCHWANKE of Missoulian.com