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Archive for Saturday, August 18, 2007

Handshy’s hobbies: harmonica, hard hits

August 18, 2007

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Sitting in a dormitory hallway, his back propped against the wall after two-a-day football practices in 100-degree heat, Ian Handshy has a case of the blues.

Blues music that is.

"He plays everywhere - in the locker room, after summer workouts. I heard him last night when I was sitting in my room. I heard some tunes that were pretty awesome. He's pretty good," Kansas University running back Brandon McAnderson said of current KU teammate and fellow Lawrence High graduate Handshy.

"I always think of Bill Cosby when I hear it," McAnderson added with a grin.

No fooling ... Handshy is accomplished when it comes to playing his harmonica.

"I am an enthusiast," the 6-foot-1, 235-pound red-shirt sophomore linebacker and special teams player said. "I like to play it - Blues mostly, not in a band, mostly jam sessions with my friends."

He's actually dabbled in harmonica longer than football.

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"I picked one up when I was really young," Handshy said. "I put it in a drawer for a really long time. For some reason, I don't know why, I woke up one day, sparked it up again about a year ago and ended up playing.

"They (teammates) hear me play all the time. In Naismith (Hall, home of the Jayhawks during two-a-days) I'll play it in, guys poke their heads out and say, 'What are you doing?'

"I get a kick out of it. A lot of people don't think of it as a regular instrument, but I do. I can read some sheet music, but I mostly play by heart."

Ah ... heart.

By all accounts, Handshy has a big one, and it might allow the walk-on some significant playing time on special teams this season.

"He's working hard. He could be a great special teams player for us," said KU assistant coach Louie Matsakis, in charge of running backs and special teams. "He runs well and is a physical kid."

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"He's willing to put in the hard work. Hard work will take it in time," McAnderson said. "He is strong, fast and physical. He has the perfect body size for special teams. I know his mentality from going to the same high school. ... He has what it takes.

"I don't see much opportunity at linebacker (this season)," McAnderson added realistically. "We've been really good at linebacker the last four or five years, but I'm rooting for him on special teams."

Handshy had two tackles, both versus Iowa State, in limited duty last season. He's willing to play on any special teams unit, but is partial to kickoff coverage.

"Running down there and just going for the ball ... that's where the big hits come," Handshy said.

A former track sprint standout at LHS, his chances may be helped by the fact kickoffs will be attempted from the 30-yard line, not the 35, this season. It'll take some speedy players to race down field and stop what figure to be certain returns, not touchbacks.

"There will be a little more distance to run. You'll get more top speed from that. You might see some harder hits, some bigger pops," Handshy said.

"I definitely think that could be to my advantage. It happened a lot last year. The ball would go to the back of the endzone and kill the play. I am hoping the speed will get me on the field more."

As far as playing linebacker, Handshy is willing to put in the time to vie for a starting spot down the line.

He is not second-guessing himself for attending KU instead of a smaller school where he'd likely be playing significant minutes.

"I always wanted to play Div. I football," the English major said. "If being patient is part of getting playing time, I'd say, yes I'm patient.

"With our linebacker corps, its challenging because everyone is so talented. You get reps whenever you can. Whenever you are on the field you play to the best of your ability. It (competition) just challenges you to be a better player."

Handshy's dream is to contribute for a perennial bowl contender.

"I wouldn't be here if I didn't think I could (play)," he said. "It comes with hard work and determination. I believe you can always achieve your goals. My goal is eventually to play a lot here."

Football and the harmonica, of course.

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