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Former Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg attempting to become baseball pitcher

JOSHUA AXELROD
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)
Christian Hackenberg

Christian Hackenberg spent three seasons as a quarterback at Penn State, two in the NFL and one in the now-defunct Alliance of American Football.

Now, the well-traveled 25-year-old is attempting to reignite his sports career by using his athletic gifts for a different purpose: pitching a baseball.

“It’s as simple as I can put it: I just want to compete, man,” Hackenberg told NBC Philadelphia recently. “I kind of have had my trials and tribulations with the NFL and had success and had that roller coaster ride. At the end of the day, I’m sitting here at 25 and I feel like I have a lot left in the tank.”

Hackenberg is trying to follow in the footsteps of Tim Tebow, another former college quarterback with a brief NFL career who announced his interest in transitioning to pro baseball in 2016. Tebow signed a minor-league contract with the New York Mets that year and has been in that organization’s farm system ever since.

In case you were wondering, Hackenberg throws right-handed and “reportedly has a 90 mph fastball,” according to ESPN’s Rich Cimini, who spoke with Hackenberg’s agent Noel LaMontagne about the former quarterback’s attempt to reinvent himself as a pitcher.

"He isn't rushing anything and is being smart about not putting his health in a bad situation," LaMontagne told Cimini via email. "He's young, has the work ethic, a ton of natural arm talent, plenty of athleticism and the focus it takes to put himself in a position to have a chance."

Hackenberg is currently training with Rutgers-Camden baseball coach Ryan Kulik, according to Cimini.

Before committing to Penn State as a football player, Hackenberg dabbled in baseball during his pre-college days at the Fork Union Military Academy in Fork Union, Va. Cimini wrote that he was mainly used as a relief pitcher and displayed “a live but erratic arm — a lot like his quarterback play.”

Luckily for inquiring minds, Hackenberg’s high school baseball statistics are all available on Max Preps. He pitched in 25? innings during his three varsity seasons from 2010-13 and threw 33 strikeouts with 40 walks, five HBPs and a 7.36 ERA. As a hitter, Hackenberg batted .378 in 148 attempts with 56 hits, 46 RBIs and 10 home runs.

Hackenberg was a Nittany Lion from 2013-15 and threw for 8,457 yards and 48 touchdowns with a 56.1% completion percentage. The New York Jets picked him in the second round of the 2016 draft. As a Jet, Hackenberg became only the third quarterback since 1967 who was selected in the first or second round to not play a game during his first two seasons in the NFL, a statistic Cimini pulled from ESPN Stats & Information.

In 2018, the Jets traded Hackenberg to the Oakland Raiders, who waived him less than three weeks later. He had brief dalliances with the Philadelphia Eagles and Cincinnati Bengals that year, but those proved to be his last two opportunities to make an NFL roster.

He was drafted by the Memphis Express of the AAF but only started three games at quarterback before being replaced by former Steelers QB Zach Mettenberger. The AAF suspended operations in April 2019, and that was the last time Hackenberg played football professionally.