Norwegian Trojan: Foreign exchange student finds a home at CHS

By JOSEPH ELERSON | News-Telegram Sports Writer

Oct. 11, 2007 - CUMBY - When everyone hears the phrase, "Everything is bigger in Texas," it is usually just a normal phrase.

For Petter Hassel, he is living it this year as a foreign exchange student at Cumby High School.

"People talk a lot down here and their attitude is much different here than in Norway," Hassel said. "They have a lot of confidence in themselves and I think that is good but some people have too much confidence in themselves. Otherwise, everything is bigger and much more pumped up here."

The starting defensive tackle came to Texas from Oslo, Norway and has been a welcome addition to the Trojans football team, according to head coach Kent Hawthorne.

"Petter has a smile on his face all the time and loves American football," the coach said. "He comes to work and works hard and does everything we have asked him to do. He starts at defensive tackle for us and played some nose guard in Norway and he gives us depth. He is strong and has great vision and takes care of his position."

Hassel said from the very first day he stepped on the football field, the adjustment to the Texas heat took him a while to get used to during practices.

"This year has been hot here. When I first got here, it took maybe 10 minutes and I was exhausted," said Hassel, the son of Brit Wold-Hansen and Knut Hassel. "I was really done and I got the water boys to throw towels at me and water, and now I am starting to get used to the heat. All of the people have been nice to me and are helping me out and I really like it here."

Hawthorne said the people of Cumby have helped Petter in many ways to get adjusted to the way things are done in Texas.

"We are trying to Americanize him a little bit here and we are trying to get him involved in a little bit of everything here," the coach said. "I think he got to go and watch Texas A&M and Baylor and he is trying to go to the State Fair with the health class. He has been to Six Flags and has been a lot of fun for us."

With his family in Oslo, Hassel said playing with his teammates and in front of the Cumby fans has been a privilege for him.

"The team is much more close here than in Norway because we don't have sports in school in Norway," he said. "Everybody is close to each other and I am really getting connected to this team and they are starting to feel like my family.

"In Norway, we get like 20 supporters sitting on the sidelines for our games. Here we have hundreds and it is so big as everybody is thinking of football all week long and talking about football. It is on TV every day and I have never watched as much football as I have here because we don't have it on TV in Norway."

He said working with Coach Hawthorne has been worth the trip to the states and he knows that his hard work is paying off in terms of football.

"My coach actually taught me how to give my best all the time. He is always at everybody's tail and keeping everybody working all the time," Hassel said. "Even though you think he knows that it don't work, he knows it and he actually gives you credit for your hard work. You get feedback on everything that you do and everything is much more specific here."

Once Hassel wraps up his senior year at Cumby, he will return to Norway and finish one more year of school before heading to the military. Hassel said even though every young man must go to the military for a minimum of one year, he will probably stay for four years and become an engineer.

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