RCW: #OneTeam with Hasan Defense
With a last name of “Defense,” it seems only fitting that sophomore Hasan Defense is a cornerback on the University of Kansas football team. However, football is not the only skill Defense has mastered.
In high school, students are often required to take a foreign language class. The most-popular choice is typically Spanish, but Defense decided to learn a language outside of the norm – sign language. Becoming fluent in sign language fostered a growing relationship with his uncle and introduced him to people in the deaf community who he never imagined connecting with.
Q: What made you choose to learn sign language?
A: In high school in Florida you have to take a language. At first I was doing Spanish, but Spanish was pretty hard. I dropped it and my counselor asked what I thought about sign language. I didn’t know much about it and I honestly just started it to get a grade. Then it stuck with me and it was exciting to get to meet new people.
Q: Did you know anyone who was deaf before you decided to take that class?
A: Before I took the class I didn’t know anyone who was deaf, but I have an uncle who is a sign language instructor. Before I got into that class, he and I never really communicated, but once I took that class we became a lot closer.
Q: Did you ask your uncle for advice before you took the class?
A: Yeah, when I was deciding, he was literally the first person I talked to. He was like, “Trust me, it might sound boring, but it’s a bigger community than what you know.”
Q: In the class did you meet deaf people and converse with them?
A: We had deaf guest speakers who would come in and bring an interpreter. We would try to communicate and we would learn different things from them.
Q: Have you used sign language since your classes?
A: Yes. Right before the season started we (the KU football team) had a little event and a lady there happened to be deaf. I noticed her doing sign language and I ended up having a conversation with her while we were walking out. That was pretty cool.
Q: You must still be fluent in it then, correct?
A: It’s starting to fade on me now because I can’t really get into it as much. But once I start communicating with someone – you know how you have “slang”? – I kind of have my own slang with it. It’s a little off, but most people can still understand it.
Q: Do you want to use sign language in a future career?
A: Yeah, definitely. I was trying to get into some classes here, but the way they have it set up doesn’t really work into my schedule. But I’ve definitely been trying to keep in touch with it. I make sure I’m staying up to date when they come out with a new sign or something. It’s really popular, honestly more popular than I ever thought it would be, and the deaf community is growing.
Q: How do you stay up to date with it?
A: Sometimes I use Google. I also still talk to my uncle. Since I started sign language our relationship has grown, even though I don’t take the class anymore, he and I still communicate. We’ll get on FaceTime and sign back and forth with each other. That’s when I use it most right now. Other than that, I haven’t used it much. But when I talk to my uncle I make sure we’re communicating with sign language.
Q: How does your uncle use his sign language?
A: He is a professional interpreter. For example, if you go to any music event, he would be one of those people in the corner who signs and gets paid to do it.
Q: Would you ever be interested in professional interpreting?
A: Yeah, I would like to do it just to try and see if I could keep up. That’s the hardest part, just keeping up. Especially when someone is having a normal conversation in front of an audience in front of thousands of people, and you’re on the side trying to listen to what they’re saying and have it come out on your hands. I want to see if that’s a task I can accomplish.
Q: How did you get started playing football?
A: Growing up in Florida, football is a really big sport. It’s kind of like Texas, you know, they look at football as the state sport. When I was young, my mom just threw me into a bunch of different sports to see what I liked most. Football just kept my excitement throughout all these years.
Q: What makes you so passionate about football?
A: One, it’s a stress reliever because you can get out there and just be free. You don’t have to worry about too much. Two, I like the excitement on big plays. Football is one of those sports where a big play doesn’t necessarily happen every play, but when it does it’s exciting.
Q: With your last name, was it natural for you to play defense?
A: Pretty much. I played receiver and running back on offense first, but once I got into high school, I started to realize all the different opportunities on defense. So, I switched over to the defensive side and with my last name it just stuck.
Q: At what point did you realize you would have the opportunity to play football at the collegiate level?
A: Coming out of high school, I went to a junior college. That’s when I started to get my grades together and in the middle of the season I got an offer from Kansas.
Q: What made you choose Kansas?
A: Kansas is a school that speaks for itself through the academics and the sports. So, I was like, “This has to be one of the best options, even if I don’t go on and play sports, I have a degree from Kansas that anybody can look at and be like, ‘Wow.'” Also, (throughout the recruiting process) my position coach, Kenny Perry, and I grew together and became close. I called Kansas “home” before I even got here.
Q: What is your favorite memory of playing football so far?
A: My favorite memory would probably have to be in high school. It was my first game at corner and they threw the ball to this guy who goes to Missouri now. He caught it on me, but right before he crossed the goal line, I got the ball out. So that was pretty exciting for me because that was my first play ever at corner. It was pretty cool.