By Pat Graham, AP Sports Writer
BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — Colorado sophomore linebacker Terran Hasselbach was asleep in the passenger seat as his father drove them home from football practice. The crash remains nothing but a blur.
Gasping for air is his first memory after their BMW was hit at nearly 60 mph by a driver who ran a red light. Passing out again. Waking up in an ambulance, his dad clutching his hand with fear on his face.
Hasselbach broke his foot, ribs and a disk in his back during an accident in 2010 that happened just before he started high school. It took him three years to play again, with his father, two-time Super Bowl winner Harald Hasselbach, training and counseling him every step of the way.
Now, Terran’s a key contributor for No. 9 Colorado, a 6-foot-1, 240-pound hybrid linebacker/defensive lineman who takes no plays for granted.
Not after all he’s been through.
“The doctors told me that playing football again was going to come down to how much I really wanted it,” said Terran, whose Buffaloes (9-2, No. 9 CFP) can earn a place in the Pac-12 Conference title game with a win over No. 21 Utah on Saturday. “In that ambulance, I had a couple of tears rolling down my cheek. Everything I worked for, everything I’ve been training for …
He paused, and glanced at the helmet he was holding.
“… I keep in mind how blessed I am to be here,” Terran continued. “I appreciate stepping on the field, being able to put my hand in the dirt, chase quarterbacks. I appreciate all of that, because it was (almost taken away).”
Since he was little, Terran’s wanted to follow in his father’s pass-rushing, run-stuffing footsteps.
Harald’s career flourished after he went undrafted by the NFL out of the University of Washington. He played for Calgary of the Canadian Football League, helping Doug Flutie and the Stampeders capture the Grey Cup in 1992. That opened doors to the NFL, with the Denver Broncos bringing him on board in 1994. He went on to capture back-to-back Super Bowl titles with John Elway & Co.
With Terran about to start high school, Harald took a job coaching the defensive line at Regis Jesuit in a suburb of Denver. It was a chance to keep working with Terran.
Then, the car accident.
Harald said they were going through an intersection when a car pulled out in front. No time for Harald to swerve. No time to slow down. Just enough time for a quick thought: “Right before we hit the car, the most profound moment I had is thinking, “This is it.’ I was petrified, because all I could think about was my son.”
Terran doesn’t remember the air bags deploying or his dad carrying him out of the car — despite smashing both knees on the dashboard — for fear of the vehicle bursting into flames. All Terran remembers is holding his father’s hand in the ambulance.
“We’re very, very lucky,” Harald said.
Terran was actually healed in time for his junior season, only to tear the labrum in his shoulder on the first day of practice in full pads. Surgery was necessary.
There went another season. It sent Terran into a dark emotional place.
His circle of friends all played football and they were busy with the grind of another season. So he began hanging out with a different crowd — the wrong crowd, he explained — and spiraling deeper into depression.
One day, he went into his parents’ room and just broke down.
“They helped me with a course to get back on track,” Terran said. “They helped me through it.”
This helped his mood, too: His shoulder healed and he could train again.
His mom, Aundrea, sent clips of his workouts to college scouts, just to get him on their radar since Terran didn’t have any game film.
In his senior year at Regis, he had 78 tackles and 11 sacks in just nine games. He verbally committed to No. 14 Western Michigan, which is undefeated this season under coach P.J. Fleck.
But everything changed once Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre entered the picture and “swept me off my feet.” Terran wanted to help transform a program that hadn’t been to a bowl since 2007.
Terran played sparingly on defense last season as a redshirt freshman and his role figured to be about the same this year on a senior-laden unit. But his playing time expanded after Derek McCartney tore his ACL at Michigan in September. Terran fills in when standout rushers N.J. Falo or Jimmie Gilbert need a breather for the resurgent Buffaloes.
“Just being out here with my brothers and growing this (success) together, it’s incredible,” Terran said.
For dad, too.
“I’m just ecstatic to see what he’s done,” Harald said. “And there’s still a lot more to come with him.”