10 Questions With Penn State Soccer Commit Brandon Hackenberg
Brandon Hackenberg isn’t an ordinary incoming student-athlete. Due to his notable older brother, he brings a unique perspective with him to Happy Valley. Before he enrolls in January, the Penn State soccer commit spent some time talking to Onward State about his background, the soccer program going forward, and who’s the better golfer between himself and his brother.
Onward State: A ton of your family is from Pennsylvania, and you used to live in Pennsylvania too, so would you say you grew up a fan of Penn State?
Brandon Hackenberg: Honestly, I was more of a Virginia fan growing up because of my dad. My younger brother, Adam, has always been a diehard Penn State fan, so I would occasionally root for them, but I was more of a Virginia fan growing up.
OS: You come from a football family — your dad played at Virginia and Susquehanna, your uncle played at Army, and obviously your brother now at Penn State. How did you end up in soccer?
BH: I’ve been asked this question dozens of times. Honestly, it all started on a playground in elementary school. A few of my friends and I were playing soccer on the blacktop, and one of them asked me to sign up and play for his team. From there, I just continued to improve and get better and found myself playing with and against the top kids in the country, and I just fell in love with it.
OS: It’s a pretty huge accomplishment to play a Division I sport. What does it mean to be able to say you’re going to be a Division I athlete?
BH: It just means that all of the work I’ve put in and sacrifices I’ve made over the years has paid off. Being able to say I am a Division I athlete is a huge accomplishment, but I know there is still more work that needs to get done.
OS: At what point did you realize that playing soccer at the college level was something that was realistic?
BH: I would say around my junior year, only because my recruiting process was delayed due to an injury. But once I recovered and got back to playing like myself again, teams were interested and it was incredible to know that some of the top schools in the country wanted me to come play for them.
OS: What other schools were you interested in, and what was it about Penn State that ultimately made you decide to spend the next four years here?
BH: I had offers from a handful of schools, but other than Penn State I had a lot of interest in the University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University. Ultimately, what made me choose Penn State was the feeling I got and still get whenever I come to visit. It’s an unbelievable feeling. I also really bonded with the players on the team and the coaches, which was another huge impact on my decision.
OS: Going back to your family, you’re coming to Penn State with a pretty prominent last name. Even though it’s in a different sport, is there any added pressure being a “Hackenberg” at Penn State?
BH: There is definitely going to be a little added pressure just because of all he has done with the football program, but we are two different people. I am going to do all I can to help the soccer program and make a name for myself.
OS: Coming into the soccer program, what are your expectations for the program and for yourself going forward?
BH: I am pumped about the future of the program. Coach Warming has put together a great team, and I have high expectations for the program and myself moving forward. I am really excited about what is ahead for us.
OS: Who is your favorite professional soccer club, and are there any players that you try to mold your game after?
BH: My favorite team is Manchester United. I don’t really have a specific player I try to mold my game after. Instead I watch all of the defenders, and see what they do well and try to use that when I play.
OS: Final two questions. You’re obviously close with your brother. Growing up, what was Christian like as an older sibling? Both being athletes, I’m sure things were competitive.
BH: Yeah, he and I are really close. Christian was always tough on me growing up, which brought out the competitiveness. I’m thankful for him being so tough on me though because it got me to where I am today. Growing up with him was awesome. He always knew what to do when we were bored, and it was always a blast spending time with him.
OS: How good of a soccer player is Christian, and who’s the better golfer — you or your brother?
BH: [Laughs] He thinks he is decent, but I would tell him to keep throwing the football. Now as for golf, he is the better golfer between the two of us, only because he has been golfing longer than me, but that is just temporary.