He was one of the most courted high school football players in the country. He could have gone to any school in the country. On February 28, 2012 he verbally commited to Penn State.
Before taking a snap in Happy Valley, he was already knocked down. As NCAA President and coward Mark Emmert state the sanctions that would be placed on Penn State, Christian Hackenberg never wavered on his commitment to the Nittany Lions.
When it was announced that any player at Penn State could transfer to another school without penalty, Christian Hackenberg again reiterated he was a man of his word. He was going to honor his commitment to the blue and white. Again, the opportunity was there for him to go to any school.
Christian Hackenberg stuck with his commitment. He stuck with his commitment when no one wanted to touch Penn State. He showed his leadership before enrolled as a Nittany Lion by doing his best to keep the recruiting class in tact.
As an eighteen year old kid, he quickly became the face of the university. He was the chosen one to lead the Lions out of the dark days of the sanctions. How many guys have the opportunity to save an entire university? How many freshman are put in the ring Hackenberg vs the NCAA Sanctions?
Hackenberg stepped into the spotlight on August 31 just on the outskirts of the city with the brightest lights. He led the Lions to a 23-17 win over Syracuse in the Meadowlands. Under the tutleage of Coach Bill O’Brien, the Lions experienced ups and downs in 2013. No matter the circumstance, Hackenberg took the challenges head on. The season was capped with a win at nationally ranked Wisconsin in which Hackenberg threw for over 300 yards leading the Lions.
In the off season, the head coach he commited to and came to play for decided for greener pastures in the NFL. Again, Hackenberg was knocked down but he got right back up.
James Franklin was brought in to lead the Lions. Despite the crippling sanctions, expectations were high on the heels of that win in Wisconsin. His sophomore season did not go as anyone couldve planned.
The offensive line was patch worked together for Hackenberg’s sophomore season. They were full of youth and kids who didnt come to Penn State to play offensive line. Sanctions forced the Lions to move defensive players to play offensive line. This is what Hackenberg stood tall behind. Needless to say, Christain was knocked down and knocked down a lot.
He was sacked 44 times in his sophomore season. That does not take into consideration the number of times he was hit. That 44 could be doubled or maybe even tripled to total the number of times he was hit. Each time Hackenberg got up.
The Hackenberg critic train began to gain steam. On the surface, he appeared to have regressed with 12 touchdowns to 15 interceptions. His completion percentage dropped, yards per play dropped. The running game aided 2.9 yards per carry. A new coaching staff system, a non existent running game, and what was called an offensive line were all reasons for him to stay down.
But the kid kept getting up. The kid kept putting the team’s struggles on his shoulders. In the off season, rumors swirled that Christian was going to escape the pressure and beating and transfer.
It wouldve been easy for him to go to a school for a head coach he couldve chosen to play for. It wouldve been easy for him to go to a system that was in place to suit his needs. It wouldve been easy for him to go to another school that allowed him to play in a bowl game. Hackenberg’s answer was simple. You dont like whats going on, play better.
So there it was, Hackenberg again stuck with his commitment and peeled himself off the ground.
This year, his junior year, has had more of the same of the ups and downs. But the critics continue to come out of the wood work. Calls for backup quarterbacks have come.
The Nittany Lions currently sit at 7-3 with games left today home vs Michigan and next week at Michigan State. These two games could define the season.
Hackenberg has certainly faced more downs than ups in his career. He certainly has made his share of mistakes. He has never thrown teammates under the bus. He continues to show up answering questions from the media. The kid defines success with honor, something some of you Paternobots used to value.
With an opportunity to impress the NFL scouts at the combine or escape to another college with Russell Wilson transfer rule, today may be the last time Christian Hackenberg runs on to the field at Beaver Stadium. I dont know what he will decide.
Im not going to sit here and say the kid makes all the reads. Im not going to sit here and say he fixes his protection to help the offense. What I am going to sit here and say is this kid should be lauded for honoring his commitment.
It wouldve been easy for him to go elsewhere. It wouldve been easy for him to shy away from the spotlight. It wouldve been easy for him to place the blame on others. The kid never did any of it. He continued to get up time after time.
He came to Penn State at a time when no one wanted to touch it. Without him captaining the ship, who knows where Penn State wouldve been or ended up when these sanctions ended.
So here’s to you 14. Here’s to you for honoring your commitment in an age where many take the easy way out. Here’s to you for exemplifying success with honor. And here’s to you for continuing to get back up. It’s time for Penn State fans to get up and give him the respect he has EARNED.