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Prize Catch: Newly signed Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg... ^ | 2-6-13 | Bob Flounders

Posted on 02/06/2013 11:05:00 AM PST by FlJoePa

FORK UNION, Va. -- At a small table inside the Estes Athletic Center on the Fork Union Military campus, with teammates and family surrounding him, Christian Hackenberg signed the letter of intent that would bind his fate with the Penn State football program's for the next few years.

He officially became a Nittany Lion at 8:50 a.m. Wednesday. And he told me he was anxious to talk with PSU head football coach Bill O'Brien and quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher Wednesday evening.

Hackenberg, who spent three years at Fork Union Military Academy, was all smiles after he signed. He looked relieved. He looked elated.

Imagine how O'Brien, his staff and the Penn State fan base feel.

The 6-4, 220-pound Hackenberg, a 17-year-old with Pennsylvania coal region roots, is arguably the top quarterback prospect in the 2013 class. And the 5-star recruit is coming to State College. Has that ever happened before? I don't think so.

This is a big deal. O'Brien and Penn State have landed an impact quarterback as the centerpiece of its 2013 recruiting class. And the Lions managed to do it during a time when it is dealing with staggering NCAA sanctions. Really, it says a lot about O'Brien and Hackenberg that this marriage came together.

Hackenberg, who was surrounded by family -- father Erick, mother Nikki and younger brother Brandon (there are actually four Hackenberg boys) -- looked a little tense before the signing. Hey, it's been a long year.

Like every other recruit in Penn State's 2013 class, it wasn't an easy decision to become a Lion.

Think about the last 15 months or so. The Jerry Sandusky scandal. Joe Paterno's death. The release of the Freeh Report. The sanctions that were announced in July, sanctions that included a four-year postseason ban and a significant loss of scholarships.

There were plenty of reasons to decommit from O'Brien's program. But Hackenberg and former Cedar Cliff star Adam Breneman and many other talented football players chose to stay.

And once Hackenberg signed for his scholarship Wednesday, he looked, and acted, like a different kid (hey, he doesn't turn 18 until Valentine's Day). More relaxed.

"A little bit,'' smiled Hackenberg, asked if he slept Tuesday night. "I was up until about 12. I just wanted to get [the signing] over with.''

When asked about fellow class member Breneman, one of his closest friends, Hackenberg said he planned on visiting him in State College soon, possibly this weekend. Breneman enrolled at PSU last month so he could take part in spring practice.

And Hackenberg wanted to set the record straight with regard to one incorrect assumption:

"First things first, I wanna clear this -- I recruited Adam, Adam didn't recruit me, so I'm going to throw that one out here,'' laughed Hackenberg. And he is right. Hackenberg committed to PSU in late February of 2012, Breneman followed in early March.

"I feel better with Coach O'Brien, what he did with (quarterback Matt) McGloin, I can't wait (to get up there),'' Hackenberg continued.

"We're looking forward to it, really proud, honored, kinda humbled for Christian to be part of the whole Penn State (program),'' said Christian's father, Erick Hackenberg, a standout quarterback at Marian Catholic in the late 1980s who later played college ball at Virginia and Susquehanna. (Nikki Hackenberg, Christian's mom, was a volleyball star at Marian Catholic and later at Lehigh.).

If you are not familiar with Fork Union Military Academy football, know this: the Charlottesville-area school has played a major role in developing some phenomenal college athletes.

Philadelphia Eagles standout wide receiver Mike Quick called Fork Union home (1977-78), so did past Heisman Trophy winners Eddie George (1988-91) and Vinny Testaverde (1981-82), former Green Bay Packers quarterback Don Majkowski (1982-83), former Dallas Cowboys linebacker Dexter Coakley (1993) and former Kentucky basketball big man Mel Turpin (1979-80). "It's going to be a big step for me because I haven't had an offense like that in high school.'' -- QB Christian Hackenberg on Bill O'Brien's offense.

And if you don't know what to expect from Hackenberg, well, the right-hander has an elite arm, one that was on display at the Under Armour All-American game in St. Petersburg, Fla., in early January. The schools that were chasing Hackenberg and his big arm included defending two-time national champ Alabama, Florida, Miami, Tennessee, South Carolina and Virginia.

But after one encounter with O'Brien and Penn State about a year ago, the race was all but decided. He was going to be a Lion.

"After the (Penn State) Junior Day, I went up there to the Junior Day, I think, February 17 of last year, and after that, I remember the (car) ride home, just talking with my grandpa and my dad and I said, 'That's where I want to be','' Christian Hackenberg said.

And Hackenberg insisted he never really wavered much on his choice of Penn State, not even after the NCAA sanctions were announced in July.

"Once everything dropped, you know, I was out at the Elite 11 (camp in Redondo Beach, Calif.), so really wasn't in the full swing of things,'' Hackenberg said.

"So naturally … I was just going to take a step back and sort of re-think this and maybe reach out to a couple of schools and see what's happening. But at the end of the day, I went back to talk with my coach (Fork Union's Micky Sullivan) and my dad and the other recruits in the (2013) class.

"We all just said, 'This is where we want to be'. We didn't commit there to play bowl games, we committed to Penn State because that's where we're going to get developed by one of the best coaching staffs in the country.''

Two people, in particular, helped make Hackenberg's decision simple -- O'Brien and Fisher.

"I think coach Charlie Fisher and coach O'Brien are a huge reason,'' Hackenberg said.

"I know you're really not supposed to … commit because of coaches but I think in this situation, those two guys aren't going to go anywhere any time soon. So I think that I have a chance to have those two throughout my career.''

And then Hackenberg got a chance to see O'Brien's offense in the fall as Penn State overcame an 0-2 start to finish 8-4. McGloin, the former walk-on, led the Big Ten in passing with 3,266 yards. He threw 24 touchdowns and was only intercepted five times.

"I think the best thing, the most exciting part, would be the ability to play mind games with the defense,'' Hackenberg said of O'Brien's diverse offense.

"Whatever they line up in, you're going to have something better to top that. You've gotta consistently be in the game mentally in order to execute at the level (O'Brien) wants to execute at. It's going to be a big step for me because I haven't had an offense like that in high school.''

So now, about those 2013 plans of yours, Christian …

He said he enrolls in late June. He will be permitted to practice in August. By that time, two other PSU QB contenders, sophomore Steven Bench and junior college prospect Tyler Ferguson, will have spent the spring learning, and receiving reps, in O'Brien's offense.

There will be a lot of catch-up work for Hackenberg. So what are his expectations for playing time?

"I think it's tough, you know, me being a freshman and coming in,'' Hackenberg said.

"You know, Matt (McGloin) was a fifth-year senior so he had a lot of free time to be able to pick the offense up. So I think for me, it's going to be, you know, how I can balance the class schedule, (team) meetings and that type of thing with 'Coach'.

"So, you know, I'm really going to try and go in and soak up as much as I can, be a sponge. And I'm almost sure, whoever gets the (starting QB) nod, we're not going to be really as sophisticated as last year because we're all younger guys.''

TOPICS: Sports
KEYWORDS: football; ncaa; psu
"The schools that were chasing Hackenberg and his big arm included defending two-time national champ Alabama, Florida, Miami, Tennessee, South Carolina and Virginia. "

This young man will go far in life. Nice job Christian and nice job BO'B.

1 posted on 02/06/2013 11:05:31 AM PST by FlJoePa
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To: FlJoePa
I am a fan of The Ohio State University and I will admit that O'Brien is a class act and will prove to be a great coach. This young player chose well and PSU chose better than OSU with their hiring of BO'B. I do not like the direction that Urban Myer is taking the Buckeye program.
2 posted on 02/06/2013 11:26:18 AM PST by buckalfa (Tilting at Windmills)
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To: buckalfa

sort of a disturbing interview on espn radio with him today. He’s always been a conundrum to me - confident and yet paranoid. I see both in him every time he talks. In guys like BO’B, I just see the confidence. Maybe it’s just me.

3 posted on 02/06/2013 11:31:16 AM PST by FlJoePa ("Success without honor is an unseasoned dish; it will satisfy your hunger, but it won't taste good")
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To: buckalfa

I guess paradox was the word I was looking for instead of conundrum. Something about UM’s eyes. Like he doesn’t sleep. Lane Kiffin has the same look.

4 posted on 02/06/2013 11:37:41 AM PST by FlJoePa ("Success without honor is an unseasoned dish; it will satisfy your hunger, but it won't taste good")
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To: FlJoePa

Paradox is correct. UM will be successful in winning games and championships at OSU, but at what cost to himself and the university. UM does seem to be possessed by some inner demon. I am a product of 1960’s football, old school and all of that. I guess my complaint is not so much with UM or OSU but the general direction the game of college football has taken the last 20 years. Except for the tragedy at the end, Joe Pa exemplified the proper approach to and purpose of college football. I beleive BO’B will continue the best
of that legacy.

5 posted on 02/07/2013 9:05:24 AM PST by buckalfa (Tilting at Windmills)
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