Photo by Erik Andrews '09
Senior quad-captain wideout Mark Hannon is a scoring threat on every play
Mr. Everything: Mark Hannon '07
By Tanner D Lipsett, special to Amherst College Sports Information
September 20, 2006
Opposing defenses break the huddle against the Amherst College football team’s offensive unit and they have one thought on their mind: Where is Mark Hannon? Used by the Lord Jeffs similarly to 2005 Heisman Trophy winner and former University of Southern California standout Reggie Bush, Hannon has become a pivotal weapon, the most dangerous offensive threat in the NESCAC and arguably one of the better Division III players in the nation.
Although Hannon has seen considerable time on the field in his first three years for the Lord Jeffs, the first two were mostly as a blocker or decoy as Amherst flaunted a powerhouse running game on the legs of backs like Fletcher Ladd ’05, Matt Monteith ’05 and Ngai Otieno ’06. “My first two years were a little frustrating, to be honest,” said Hannon. “We of course had a phenomenal running game, but naturally as a receiver you push for more pass plays. With that said, I was an underclassman so I was grateful just to be on the field as much as I was. I gained a lot of experience those first two years through the system and from the coaches, but especially from and the receivers ahead of me.”
However, Hannon burst on to the scene last season, racking up a conference-best (and thirty-third in the nation) 148.1 all-purpose yards-per-game and 10 touchdowns. He set the tone in the Jeffs’ season-opener at Hamilton, where he grabbed a pair of passes for 33 yards in his typical wide receiver slot, but also carried the ball three times for a team-high 117 yards, including a 90-yard touchdown run on which he lined up at the quarterback position. This offensive onslaught continued throughout the year as he torched opponents through the air (four receiving touchdowns), on the ground (five rushing touchdowns) and on special teams (one touchdown and a NESCAC-best 10.9 punt return average). He also finished third in the NESCAC in receiving (64.5 ypg), seventh in receptions (4.0 cpg) and eighth in punting (33.9 ypp). In the end his efforts awarded him 2005 NESCAC Offensive Player of the Year, Don Hansen's Football Gazette NCAA Division III East Honorable Mention, ECAC Division III Northeast All-Star Honorable Mention and First-Team All-NESCAC honors as a wide receiver and return specialist.
Hannon’s versatility started long before his arrival at Amherst. At Glen Rock High School, in Glen Rock, N.J., he starred as a quarterback, wide receiver and safety, leading the Panthers to their third and fourth consecutive state sectional championships. His new and varied duties in the Amherst offense were an old reminder of the run and shoot offense at Glen Rock, which included several option-style plays that required lots of running, throwing and making decisions on the move. “I always felt more comfortable being on the run than being a typical pocket passer, so that's why the transition to receiver was not an entirely difficult one,” said Hannon. “When Coach (and offensive coordinator Don) Faulstick designed plays for me to line up at quarterback and running back last season it seemed somewhat familiar.”
“We knew he was really athletic, and we knew of his high school versatility, and we told him we were going to use him in that type of fashion when we recruited him,” said nine-year Amherst football assistant and offensive coordinator Don Faulstick. “It took us a couple of years to get him ready and comfortable with the offense to use him the way we did last season, and he’s become one of our best offensive players.”
Although he’s more than happy to line up in the receiver slot, Hannon has enjoyed his time back under center. “I have played quarterback most of my life, so I would say that is my natural position,” he said. “It was a lot of fun to be back there again, although I know [starting quarterback and fellow quad-captain Nick] Kehoe would disagree. Unless I were to throw him a touchdown pass he will continue to give me a look when coach puts me in at QB for a play.”
In response to Hannon’s touches at quarterback, Kehoe welcomed the challenge, calling it “really a lighthearted competition between the two of us, something we joke about a lot. However, I definitely give Hannon a long cold stare whenever he comes in to play quarterback. It would be nice if he’d throw me a TD pass one of these times, but I’m not going to complain when he’s running for 90-yard touchdowns from back there.”
Hannon’s path to Amherst was a relatively simple one as he received guidance from his high school coach and Amherst College alum, Alan Deaett ’62. With plenty of attention from the Amherst football program, Hannon saw continuing his football career as a way to open some doors to great opportunities. In the end, his choice came down to Amherst and NESCAC and Little Three archrival Williams College. “Once it came down to Williams and Amherst I felt like I could've tossed a coin to make my decision,” he said. “They both provide excellent educations and have histories and traditions, but when it came down to it, the atmosphere and people at Amherst seemed to fit me better.”
His travels to Amherst also paved the way for fellow Glen Rock natives Rob Grammer ’08 and Dan Guariglia ’08, who have followed Hannon on to the Lord Jeff football squad and are both returning starters at safety and offensive lineman, respectively. Happy to rejoin forces with his former high school teammates, he was quick to offer them high levels of praise. “It was a thrill when I first found out that they were both coming to Amherst,” he said. “They were faced with even greater responsibilities earlier on in their careers here than I was and there was no doubt that they would accept these challenges and contribute to the team.”
“It’s been an honor to be a teammate of Mark’s in high school and here at Amherst,” added Guariglia. “He is a tremendous athlete, a great leader and a good friend of mine.”
Along with Grammer and Guariglia, Hannon has come through the program with classmates Kehoe and fellow wide receiver Justin Macione. The three of them have intensely worked together as quarterback (Kehoe) and receivers, and now in their final campaign they are truly ready to shine as a passing unit.
A political science major, Hannon doesn’t rule out the possibility of football remaining in his future. With the wide variety of opportunity outside of the National Football League (NFL), Division III standouts like Hannon can seek opportunity in the Candian Football League, Arena Football League or even NFL Europe. However, not placing all his eggs in one basket, he is also exploring other career endeavors in finance. While not on the field, Hannon still hangs on to his love of his favorite sport, basketball. In the winter and spring it is not uncommon to find Hannon attending Amherst College basketball events, playing in Amherst intramurals or just enjoying a series of pick-up games in Alumni Gymnasium.
Unlike Bush, Hannon does not have his sights set on a Heisman Trophy or a national championship, but he and the rest of the Lord Jeffs will try to hunt down the recently elusive NESCAC title and a homecoming victory over Williams this fall.