Urbana closure leaves Javion Hanner scrambling

Urbana running back Javion Hanner returned home last month after residence halls were closed and spring practice was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The former Zephyrhills Christian standout continued taking online classes in hopes of returning this summer for the start of fall camp. 

That will not happen.

On Tuesday, Hanner checked his email and discovered some startling news. Urbana was not just pulling the plug on its football program. The entire school was shutting down for good. 

“I was very stunned,” Hanner said. “We had no warning or anything.”

Urbana, which had struggled with declining student enrollment the past few years, became one of the first colleges to close its doors because of the virus. 

“The global coronavirus pandemic has added a level of stress and uncertainty to Urbana’s prospects that make it impossible to sustain,” the university said in Tuesday’s press release.

That decision left Hanner and his teammates frantically searching for another school to attend this coming season. 

As a freshman last season, Hanner had 39 yards rushing and returned seven kicks for 123 yards. He was expected to have an even bigger role on offense this season. 

“I was supposed to be one of the featured players coming out of the backfield and in the slot,” he said. 

Hanner has overcome adversity before. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee after his junior season. After going through the grueling stages of rehabilitation, Hanner came back stronger, more focused and injury-free. As a senior, he had 1,201 yards rushing, 207 receiving and accounted for nine touchdowns. 

Javion Hanner

Still, his size (5-foot-9, 185 pounds) and the injury were big factors that kept him going to a Division I-A program. 

“It was tough,” Hanner said of going through the ACL tear. “I felt like giving up on football but my support system wouldn’t let me. I rehabbed really hard and came back in about 5 ½ months, which was really early, but my knee is still doing fine now. 

“I had a lot of D-I coaches who were reluctant (to offer) because they didn’t know how I would recover or if I would be the same player.”

Hanner refused to let that be a deterrent. He signed at Urbana and was able to play right away. 

Now, he is scrambling to find somewhere else to continue his college career.

“I’m not worried,” Hanner said. “I know God will guide me, but it is stressful focusing on online with school during this pandemic.”