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It’s Been A Down Past Two Years, But Hackenberg Keeps Getting Back Up

Down goes his draft stock. Down go what were expected to be elite statistics. And down goes Christian Hackenberg himself, sacked 101 times in his Penn State career.

Penn State football is no stranger to roller-coaster careers, but Hackenberg’s rivals the best of them. A five-star recruit-turned-star freshman-turned-struggling sophomore has received more criticism than he deserves, and as his junior year begins to come to a close, his career at Penn State just might too.

He’s a player that has been knocked down harder and more often than anyone else, and he had another underwhelming performance in his team’s 28-16 loss to Michigan. Still, as much as he went down, he kept getting back up.

Senior Day festivities were held before the game, which distracted from the fact that this could’ve been Hackenberg’s last game in Beaver Stadium — for the senior class, it was.

“It means a lot to me, playing here with those guys,” Hackenberg said. “So it’s just disappointing that we couldn’t…I just tried to lay it all out there, give everything I had, it was tough seeing everything unfold the way it did.”

“I was taking everything in,” he added. “But at the same time, I think it was more frustration that we couldn’t get it done today for a lot of reasons. It is what it is, and we got two more to try to end on a high note.”

A common theme of his post-game press conference was that the team has two games left in 2015. Fans and media can speculate as much as they want, but Hackenberg is focused on this Penn State team, not what his future may hold.

“[Looking past games] has never been a problem here,” he said. “We’ve always figured out ways to bounce back the next week and continue to play hard. That’s something that you can’t challenge out of a Penn State team, that’s something that’s been the case for years here. I think that’s not a problem of ours, we’re just gonna go back to work, business as usual.”

But at the end of the day, Hackenberg holds Penn State records for total yardage and is tied for total touchdown passes. He also has been sacked an astounding 101 times, which is good for almost three times per game. He’s been knocked down countless times and has dealt with an underwhelming offensive line and a, well, unique coordinator.

“I think it’s a learning experience, it’s adversity obviously,” Hackenberg reflected after the game. “I’m not the only one who’s had to deal with adversity throughout these past two seasons, so I’m just trying to figure out what I gotta do to make sure that I can do my job on a consistent basis and control what I have control over.”

Hackenberg ended up completing only 13 passes out of 31 attempts for 137 yards and a touchdown pass against Michigan. The most familiar statistic appeared en masse again, as he was sacked four times. Even so, he didn’t dwell on the hits or feel sorry for himself.

“It is what it is,” he said. “I gotta do what I gotta do to make sure I’m as healthy as I can for next week, and there’s a lot of guys in there doing the same thing. It’s part of the job.”

StateCollege.com’s Ben Jones asked Hackenberg after the game how hard it is to be so resilient.

You’ve gotten hit so many times, you’ve gotten sacked and pounded into the ground so many times, what gets you back up?

“Teammates. My personal pride. It’s part of playing this game, you gotta get back up, guys are looking at you and you gotta leave everything you have out there on the field no matter the circumstances. We were still in that game for a long time.”

Is it ever hard?

“No.”

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About the Author

Doug Leeson

Doug is a sophomore and Onward State's Assistant Managing Editor. Dislikes: popcorn, Rutgers, and a low #TimberCount. Likes: "Frozen," Rec Hall, and you. Contact him via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @DougLeeson.

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