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Penn State Football: Yes, (In) Virginia, There is a Christian Hackenberg

by on July 30, 2015 11:30 PM

The distance between Palmyra, Virginia, and the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois, is 722 miles.

Right now, Christian Hackenberg, Penn State’s star junior quarterback, is at home in Palmyra with his folks and three brothers.

Right now, the Big Ten Conference’s Media Days are being held at the Hyatt Regency, right off of Martin Luther King Drive and a few blocks from the western shores of Lake Michigan.

And the twain shall never meet.

Nittany Lion head coach James Franklin has made sure of that.

Instead of taking Hack the Media Magnet to meet the press in Chitown, Penn State’s media-savvy coach brought along three very quotable seniors – safety Jordan Lucas, center Angelo Mangiro and manimal Anthony Zettel.

Instead, Hackenberg, surely at the direction of his coach, is playing it a bit shy down in the 22963 – a suburb of Charlottesville. Hack may have played well with scores of reporters in the Windy City, but in the county seat of Fluvanna, he’s no big thing. After all, the Adler Brothers from Lamb of God are from the area. So is another American Idol. Guy by the name of Daughtry.

Hackenberg has certainly earned some time off. He spent a good part of the summer on the road, as an Elite 11 camp counselor in Oregon and rubbing right elbows with Peyton and Eli at the Manning Passing Academy in Thibodaux, Louisiana. That Christian is at home to spend a few days with younger bros Adam, Drue and Brandon (he’s the high school Hackenberg who just verbally committed to play Penn State soccer) is a good thing in so many ways.

Just like nothing good happens after 2 a.m., it's quite possible nothing good could’ve happen from a Hackenberg appearance at the Media Daize in Chicago. In this case, Franklin is a wise man.


We know the questions: Are you going pro after the 2015 season? Do you think you’ll be the No. 1 draft pick? What do you think of your offensive line, James Franklin, John Donovan, Ricky Rahne, swift receivers, Taylor Swift, Tatum Coffey, Tatum Channing? (OK, maybe not so much the last one.)

Not that Christian wouldn’t tame the lions. We’ve seen enough of Hackenberg, in dozens of pressers before and after both football games and sanction pronouncements both good and  bad. The PSU QB hides the whites of his eyes under the under the blue bill of his ballcap and says – and almost always means – the right thing. “Yes sir” is SOP when you grow up the under the tutelage of  a grand-dad who was a football coach, a dad who was a college quarterback and a prep school that was Fork Union Military Academy (where the drive to school featured more cows than people).

If he’s smart – and he is -- Hackenberg will do the bulk of his speaking on seven different football fields in 2015. That’s what Franklin wants. And to start the season, Hackenberg will have a good half-dozen chances to say great things before heading to The Horseshoe, the nadir of his collegiate career.

We’ve had 25 starts in 25 possible games to see Penn State’s Wunderkid go from The No. 1 Recruit to The Chosen One to The Savior to The Kid to The Captain, to the occasional he’s-acting-just-like-a-young kid to a 34-of-50, 371-yard, 4-TD pass are you kidding me? performance against BC in Yankee Stadium.

By the time Penn State plays in a bowl game this year, provided he stays healthy, Hackenberg’s game stat line will be at 38 games, and 38 starts. In just two seasons, he ranks 10th on the list of all-time starts among Penn State quarterbacks over the past 40 seasons. If his off-season of yoga and weight room work help do the trick, he’ll vault to No. 2 – only behind the enigmatic Tony Sacca and his 40 starts.

(In between are: Zack Mills, 34; Todd Blackledge, 33; Chuck Fusina, 32; Kerry Collins, 28; John Shaffer, 26; Daryll Clark, 26; Wally Richardson, 26; and Anthony Morelli, 26).

No. 38 could be Hackenberg’s last at Penn State. He certainly might head to the NFL after a bowl finale in late 2015, turning pro before he even turns 21. (If that’s the case, remember this: The original Kid, Ted Williams, hit a home run in his final at-bat.)

It’s likely that his third season will be the one that defines Hackenberg. Which is a bit funny. In some ways, his legacy has already been written. In a very undervalued manner, he’s been the glue that has consistently held Penn State football together over the last few years.


Off the field, he honored his commitment to Bill O’Brien and Penn State even after the sanctions hit. And stayed with the program, through thick and thin and thin and thick. He came to University Park about 770 days ago. And he has stayed, though he may never see a thousand.

On the field, he’s been hit (25 games, 66 sacks) and a can’t-miss NFL prospect (25 games, 11 last-ditch drives that resulted in a victory on regulation; an overtime-sending score; an overtime-extending TD or field goal; or a victory in overtime).

Off the field, he’s been the one constant in the Lasch first-floor quarterback meeting room, sharing space with at least five different coaches and no less than seven quarterbacks in 25 games and 25 months. He is just one of five players who will start the first game of the 2015 season who also started the first game of the 2013 season (the others: Nyeem Wartman-White, Trevor Williams, Jordan Lucas and, maybe, Kyle Carter). He is the only one of seven team captains returning from last season’s squad.

He’s just 1,281 yards and 106 completions from becoming Penn State’s all-time leading passing leader. He has more 300-yard games, passing attempts in a game and a season, and single-game passing yards than any quarterback in Penn State football’s 128 seasons.

All of that is a good start. Twenty-five starts, actually.

So, we don’t need to hear Christian Hackenberg talk in Chicago on Friday. Soon enough, his actions – again – will speak louder than words.

Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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