LOUDON’S BENAIAH “HURRICANE” HANSON
HOPING TO MAKE SOCCER HISTORY
Loudon is known far and wide for its New Hampshire Motor Speedway and NASCAR racing. But someday, perhaps soon, it may also be known as the home of Benaiah Hanson.
Benaiah Hanson. As he’s a 14-year-old soccer player—as opposed to a decades-old racing institution—you probably haven’t heard of him. Not yet. Until now.
Benaiah is presently in Texas, living a soccer dream with the Dallas Texans U15 Boys Academy of the ECNL (Elite Clubs National League), a home to national champions of youth soccer.
So why didn’t Benaiah stay closer to home with Major League Soccer’s New England Revolution Academy? The answer is that he was looking for a career pathway that would not limit him to only U.S. Major League Soccer, but one that could also include international opportunities. And he'd already exhibited his soccer brilliance with the Revolution’s U-13 and U-14 teams on the same Gillette Stadium turf where Tom Brady sought a different football glory.
But Benaiah’s remarkable sports journey is only just beginning—and an inspiring story it is.
The story starts in Africa, where in 2006 baby Benaiah lived at the Home of Hope Orphanage in Kigali, Rwanda.
Enter Pete and Heidi Hanson. The Hansons were Concord High graduates, Class of ’89, although they didn’t really know each other then. Pete was a quarterback/defensive back for the Crimson Tide football team and later played at Plymouth State. Heidi was also a sports enthusiast who went on to Endicott College. Their paths crossed at a karaoke night at Concord’s Szechaun Garden Restaurant during Thanksgiving weekend of 1999. They soon wed and in 2000 welcomed their first child into the world—Asia Grace Hanson.
Devout Christians who attend Grace Capital Church in Pembroke, the Hansons sought to help and serve others and so became licensed foster parents. Their first call was for Macie Mae, a three-day old baby whom they fostered in 2004 before adopting her in 2008.
Concurrently, Pete and Heidi learned about African youngsters in desperate need from a missionary couple who visited their church. The Hansons sensed calls for help from Rwanda and so they tried to answer those “calls.” They spoke with a Gilford couple who’d gone through the independent African adoption process and then committed themselves to adopting a needy Rwandan baby.
Actually two. A family friend mentioned the idea of perhaps saving two lives, if they were going to travel all the way to Africa. Figuring there was always room for one more, Pete and Heidi changed their adoption application dossier to reflect their desire to adopt two babies and bring them to America. This required serious fund-raising, lots of paperwork, prayers, and frustrating unanswered phone calls to Kigali. But telephones (and prayers) were eventually answered and arrangements were successfully made. In 2008 the Hansons brought Benaiah and Luke to New Hampshire.
As many folks associate Loudon with NASCAR, so too do many people associate Rwanda with genocide. Almost a million Rwandans died during a horrific 1994 civil war between Hutu and Tutsi factions. Many thought the country would never recover. But a new nation arose from the ashes and bloodshed that inspired and gave hope to the world. The country rebuilt and demonstrated enlightened progress. In 2008, the same year that Benaiah and Luke came to America, Rwanda became the first country in the world to elect a legislature featuring a female majority.
That Benaiah (Tutsi) and Luke (Hutu) would become brothers underscored Rwanda’s post-genocidal progress while providing hope for so many seeking inspiration.
So in the fall of 2008 Benaiah Hurricane Hanson and Luke Washington Hanson came to Loudon, joining Macie Mae and Asia Grace in Pete and Heidi’s growing family
Another foster baby, born in 2008, would join the family permanently in 2012—Jacob Maverick Hanson.
To the Soccer Pitch
At age 7 Benaiah began playing on Loudon Freedom's U-9 Club team. Already demonstrating blazing speed, “Hurricane” Hanson helped the team go undefeated. He soon attracted the attention of the Seacoast Express United Club and eventually settled into his natural position of striker.
Benaiah’s parents home-schooled their children, stressing character, coachability and fitness. So it was no surprise that “Hurricane” quickly became popular with teammates and coaches—for both his talent and his “team-first” mindset. He became well-known in New Hampshire’s youth soccer world and in the fall of 2017, at the age of eleven, moved up to play for Seacoast Development Academy team out of Epping. Not intimidated by more polished players (none were faster), Benaiah scored five goals in his second game for his new team. Then four goals in his third game. Then four goals in fourth game. After moving up to the Academy’s “A” team he scored four goals against Valeo FC, a feeder team to the New England Revolution. This put the young Loudoner on the MLS radar screen.
In April of 2018, at the age of 12, Benaiah was invited to Gillette Stadium for a workout sponsored by the Revolution. The Hansons were euphoric. They admittedly didn’t understand everything that was happening but knew something special was unfolding. But four days before the Foxborough workout a major setback occurred. Benaiah broke his leg during a home game in Epping.
“We prayed about it,” explained Heidi. “We told the Revolution about the injury but they said to come anyway.”
It turned out that surgery was unnecessary and the leg was set. The Hansons made the long drive to Foxborough while Benaiah agonized about the missed opportunity to show the Revolution what he could do. Pete, Heidi, and “Hurricane” expected a pro forma discussion with the soccer officials and then a long ride back to Loudon. But they were stunned when a team official offered Benaiah a spot on the organization’s 18-member Development Academy U-13 roster for the fall.
“Don’t worry about not being able to work out for us today,” said the official. “We’re very aware of Benaiah’s abilities.”
The ride back to Loudon turned out to be a happy one. Benaiah did everything he was supposed to do to recover, eventually working out with Phil Tuttle’s Elite Player Performance Soccer organization in Concord during that summer. That fall he’d score nine goals in nine games, which included his first action on the Gillette Stadium field.
When winter came, “Hurricane” continued to play indoors, to include a game against an English team sponsored by the legendary Manchester United organization. Despite being double-teamed by bigger Brits, Benaiah scored a goal in a 5-4 loss before a huge crowd.
On to Texas
In 2019 Benaiah played on the Revs’ U-14 team as a 13-year-old and even moved up to U-15 for three games, scoring a goal. During his fall season he was invited to do independent training with The Pro Project, out of Massachusetts, which became instrumental in his continued rapid development this past year. There he trained with older, faster, bigger and more skilled players on a regular basis. Film analysis helped him to view the sport strategically
2020 beckoned as a break-through year. And then …
The pandemic that turned the sports-world upside down also disrupted “Hurricane Hanson’s” world. New England soccer plans and schedules were modified or cancelled. Benaiah suffered extreme 2020 sports frustration—along with countless others in this year of the Coronavirus.
The Hansons prayed on things and then, as in 2018, a surprise opportunity manifested itself. After hearing about the Dallas Texans soccer organization from a friend, Pete and Heidi reached out to a Dallas coach. The ECNL’s Texans U15 Boys Academy based out of Farmers Branch, Texas, offered Benaiah a roster spot. So Pete, Heidi and Hurricane traveled to the Lone Star State on August 2 and learned that the organization already had a preseason slate of “friendlies” scheduled. The team favors a fast-paced European style of soccer—well-suited to Benaiah’s skills. That the club plays outdoors on grass year-round was another plus.
“The organization was wonderful to Pete, Benaiah and me,” explained Heidi. “They knew we faced a tough decision, dealing with many pros and cons. We all love New England. But because we were friends with a family with a son on the team, we finally decided that Texas was the place for Benaiah to continue his journey.”
Articulate and well-read, Benaiah is a thinker and dreamer who is already working on a book with mythological inspiration. He appears to be a major home-schooling success story, a young man that almost any university would love to enroll. His eyes sparkle as he describes his favorite soccer moments, including a “meg” against Manchester United—where he pushed a ball between an opponent’s legs and then outraced him to the ball.
That 2008 plane ticket that brought “Hurricane Hanson” to America from a Rwandan orphanage has led to a soccer ticket that just might take Benaiah anywhere. He admits to dreaming about a spot on the American Men’s National Team someday.
It was pointed out to “Hurricane” that he’d only be 16 years old when the next World Cup competition takes place in Qatar in 2022.
“That’s correct” replied Benaiah with a big smile, and that soccer sparkle in his eye.