Penn State Football’s Backbone: Cut Hack Some Slack
Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg, unquestionably the best player on Penn State’s football team, takes a lot of flak for the way he plays. Hackenberg is one of the most talented players and should be recognized as such — not only for his talents, but for his commitment to Penn State.
A common question I’ve been hearing is “why don’t we start the backup quarterback?” There are many answers to this question, but the simplest response is that he’s just not as talented. As the saying goes, “the most popular player on a losing football team is the backup quarterback.” That isn’t to say he won’t be a good player when his number is called, but Hackenberg is the player Penn State needs right now. He’s a good quarterback — it’s no mistake that Hackenberg is still being heralded as a future first round pick in May’s upcoming NFL draft.
Despite spotty offensive line play, Hackenberg still has glimpses of brilliance. If he were provided enough time to throw, certain luxuries players like Cardale Jones and Connor Cook are fortunate enough to enjoy, he would be making the same throws that they do. The time that an offensive line gives a quarterback is often overlooked by the average football fan, but it’s imperative to a quarterback’s ability to complete passes. When an offensive line holds its own, it gives wide receivers and tight ends time to progress through their routes and get downfield. It also gives the quarterback a sense of safety, allowing him to make smarter throws. Hackenberg has been sacked 52 times since last year’s season opener, and is naturally more prone to making a quick throw to evade pressure than to stay in the pocket for extended periods of time.
If Hackenberg’s talent isn’t enough to make you want to root for him, imagine yourself in his shoes just over three years ago on July 23, 2012. Having been committed to Penn State for only a few months, Christian Hackenberg watched as Penn State’s football program was handed the harshest sanctions in NCAA history by Mark Emmert. Hackenberg was a unanimous five-star prospect in high school — one who could have played at any university in the country. But Hackenberg stayed true to his word and his commitment. Fast forward to the end of Hackenberg’s freshman season: Bill O’Brien decides to leave Penn State for the Houston Texans. The coach that Hackenberg was recruited by, committed to, and played under for only one year left for greener pastures, yet he decided to stay with the program.
Hackenberg became an icon at Penn State for his skill, and will go down in history at Penn State for his loyalty and dedication to a program that he knew was bigger than himself. Without Christian Hackenberg, Penn State’s beloved football program would not be where it is today, and whether you like his playing style and statistics or not, everyone should support him.
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