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Live Like Drew
Star athlete Drew Hanna's death rocked Orofino this summer, but because of the way he lived his life, hope springs anew
Published: 10/27/2023 8:48:53 AM
 

ORDER GAME PHOTOS

If you drive along the asphalt ribbon of Highway 12 that winds north through the small town of Orofino, you might see a “Live Like Drew” sticker plastered to a road sign or telephone pole. It’s a simple maxim that this tight-knit community has not only coined but embraced. Yet it’s not not so easy to imitate.


Drew Hanna was an original, though you’d wish you had a thousand of him.

So deep was the impression the 17 year old left on everyone who knew him that the largest venue in Orofino, the Best Western conference center ballroom, couldn’t hold everyone for his memorial service in August. With more than 300 people shoe-horned into the room, late-comers stood in the parking lot, straining to hear the stories shared about Drew’s life. It was the canonization of a legacy that just might make a more lasting impression on the community’s landscape than the old mines boring deep into the mountains along the Clearwater River.

 

 
A Gaping Hole

Early on the morning of July 31st, Drew was riding in the passenger seat of a truck with a friend. Two buddies wringing out the last few drops of summer before their senior year, before fall football practice began. Then the vehicle overcorrected and ended up on its roof. Drew didn’t make it.


News of his death spread quickly throughout the community, casting a dark cloud over the town, the school, and the people who knew him best.

“It’s a tough one,” Orofino baseball coach Rocky Barlow said. “It’s hard now talking about it. It’s something you just don’t want to think is real, but it’s something that I think about every time I wake up. I think about it all day at work and when I’m coaching other kids. It’s just heavy on my mind because Drew was a kid who was always there and super reliable in every way. Him always being there was just one of those things you took for granted.”

Orofino football coach Jake Maetche took Drew’s loss hard, feeling it in many ways. He even wondered if the players would want to field a team this season.

“The first day of practice we only had eight kids show up,” Maetche said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen. But the kids just needed some time. Once school started, we’ve had some older kids come out because they wanted to play for Drew.”

 

Such a tribute is fitting for Drew, the team’s star wide receiver who sacrificed his stats and state glory to fill a void on the team at quarterback.

“When he was in junior high, we were in a game where we’d run out of quarterbacks,” Maetche said. “Everybody had gotten hurt. But Drew jumped up and did it. He was willing to do anything. He took a few snaps and it wasn’t pretty, but he was willing to do what he had to do for the team.

“And then last year, when I took over as coach of the varsity team, we were in a similar situation where the previous starting quarterback decided not to play his senior year. But Drew volunteered to play quarterback. He sacrificed his own season as he’d just had a season as a productive wide receiver. But he was that kind of guy. He’d do whatever the team needed, not what
he needed.”

However, there was a time when Drew was younger that he found himself fighting just to get on the field amid his class teeming with talented athletes.

“Drew had to fight his way onto some of these teams just to keep up with other players’ ability,” said Lisa Hanna, Drew’s mother. “That was a big thing through middle school and early high school. We were constantly telling him that he had to work hard to prove that he deserved a spot on the field.”

The pep talks worked as he grew into one of the team leaders in whatever sport he played.

Yet as impressive as Drew was on the gridiron, his presence off the field impressed Maetche.

Always looking for ways to have a good time, Drew energized the student body with his inexhaustible school spirit and his creativity.

“At one of our basketball games, Drew and another student set up an ESPN-style booth and announced the game,” Maetche said. “Then they interviewed me at halftime. He was always doing funny and creative things.”

Like wearing an inflatable flamingo around his waist or donning blue tights and blue suspenders to volleyball games to fire up the “Blue Crew” student section and cheer on his younger sister Brynn.

“If you asked a lot of students at the school, Drew was the B
lue Crew,” Lisa Hanna said. “He didnt mind dressing up and looking silly. Its pretty amazing this year to see that the kids have honored him in carrying on that spirit in the Blue Crew.”

This season, some of the students placed an empty stadium chair in the middle of the Blue Crew’s section in the bleachers as a way of honoring his memory.

Nobody wants to forget Drew.

 


A Future Star on the Diamond

While Drew excelled on the football field, the baseball diamond was where he left an unforgettable mark, both at Orofino and with area rivals.


“Drew was so coachable and did whatever you asked him to do,” Barlow said. “He was really upbeat with his teammates whether he was in the game or not. We can’t replace him. He was that big for us on the mound. As confident of a kid as he was, the mound was the place where he was most confident.”

Unflappable as a pitcher, Drew embraced pressure situations. Bases loaded. Big hitter coming to the plate. No problem. He would reach deep and find a little something extra on his fastball to squelch the threat and get out of the inning.

“I don’t know how many times I saw this with Drew,” Barlow said, “but he’d get himself into a jam or an error would happen, and the other team would put runners in scoring position. And it was always the same thing.

“I’d go out to visit him and have this conversation: ‘How’s your arm?’ ‘Good,’ he’d say. We’d talk about what he needed to do to get out of the jam. And then just as I was just about to leave the mound, I’d tell him, ‘Don’t be afraid to throw them an off speed pitch to keep them off balance.’

“Then like clockwork, he’d throw three or four fastballs and strike the batter out,” Barlow said with a chuckle. “He had extreme confidence in his fastball. He knew what he was going to throw. The batters knew he was going to throw it. And it still didn’t seem to matter.”

But—win or lose—once the game was over, the 2A all-state right-handed fireballer returned to his affable nature, befriending opponents and rekindling old friendships.

When Drew played on a youth travel baseball team, a couple of players from Grangeville joined them. One of those players was Sam Lindsley.

But Sam and Drew didn’t really bond until they attended a Gonzaga baseball camp in Spokane together as 11 years olds, a friendship forged when Drew was just being Drew.

“When we were at camp, I was being a bit of a downer, and Drew tried to cheer me up,” Sam recalled.

At the time, social media was awash in the Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge, a fun trend where kids pressurized a cup around their mouth in order to make their lips look as plump as Kylie Jenner’s.

“When Drew did it, instead of making his lips get big, they just turned this dark purplish color—and it was right before we had to leave the room to eat,” Sam said laughing. “It was classic Drew.”

As Sam and Drew continued playing together during the summers traveling to baseball tournaments, high school season pitted them against one another as district rivals, Sam at Grangeville and Drew at Orofino. But it didn’t affect their friendship.

During their freshman season in 2021, Grangeville beat Orofino to qualify for the state tournament. Then in 2022, Drew and Orofino returned the favor not once, but twice. Orofino beat Grangeville to qualify for state, and then during their American Legion season, Drew hit a walk-off single to end Grangeville’s season.

But this past season, Sam exacted some payback by hitting a home run off Drew in the district tournament.

“The thing is there were never any hard feelings over it,” Sam said. “Bu
t wed laugh and joke about it. It was that kind of that competitiveness throughout the year.”

 

 
A Far-Reaching Effect

While Maetche knew Drew was well-known to the school’s rivals across the Central Idaho League, he didn’t realize just what an impression Drew had made.


“He was involved with a lot of people from multiple schools in the area,” Maetche said. “Immediately after it happened, we had messages from Kamiah, St. Maries, and Grangeville. He had a lot of connections and got along well with a lot of kids from other schools.”

So much so that a girl invited him to attend the Grangeville prom with her nearly an hour’s drive from Orofino.

“I didn
t know he was going to our prom,” Sam said. “He didnt tell me beforehand. So when we were in line to do the march, I see him in line too and I was like, ‘What are you doing here?’ And at the end of the dance, he was happy to see me and we talked. It was a cool surprise and he fit in great.”

He fit in so much so that his popularity prohibited him from dancing as much as his date might have preferred.

“We heard Drew’s date was a little frustrated because he was bombarded by so many of the people he knew at Grangeville,” Lisa Hanna said. “He definitely viewed Grangeville as a rival on the field, but after the game was over, it was all handshakes and hugs. I really don’t know how he did it.”

But she does.

Especially as he exhibited the kind of character she sowed into him as a child.

His affinity for befriending students from opposing schools also extended to those in his own school—the loners, the outcasts, the students who stayed on the fringes.

“I talked to a student who had always been afraid to be friends with Drew because he was one of the cool kids,” said Lisa, who teaches in the Orofino schools. “Drew told her that she could hang out with the group as much as anybody else, and told her that she was just as cool, just maybe in different ways.

“He was the epitome of rooting for the underdog and being kind to everyone.”

That meant even the people hardly anyone notices.

Like the bus driver.

“At Drew’s memorial, I read out a lot of the cards and memorials,” Lisa said. “My husband and I didn
t realize Drew’s reach. We knew he was a good athlete and respectful, but we heard a lot of things from so many people, even down to the woman who drove the bus for all the boys sports.

“She told the players she was willing to stop for a snack after the games if somebody would get her something. Drew would always get her a snack and a drink for the ride home. I never in a million years would
ve thought that he was going out of his way to be kind like that.”

It was that zest for life and that kindness—and that big warm smile—that has forever etched Drew’s life onto the hearts of everyone in Orofino and for miles around.

“Live Like Drew—it’s a phrase that they should trademark in Orofino,” Sam said. “He always had a big smile, no matter what. He could
ve had the worst pitching game of his life and he’d still have a big smile on his face. He was able to move on from that kind of stuff and see the bigger picture.”

Sam paused for a moment before continuing.

“The friendships were bigger than the game,” he said. “Drew was always able to see that. So for me, Live Like Drew means to move past the disappointments and letdowns—even if your grandparents came to the game—because there
s more to life than what happens on a field. Its just a game.”

Drew Hanna didn’t win every game, but he won at the game of life. And his impact on Orofino—and everyone in the surrounding communities who had the pleasure of knowing him—won’t be easily forgotten.

 





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