February 29, 2012
Penn State was the perfect fit
Christian Hackenberg made his college decision on Wednesday and the Rivals250 quarterback has made a lot of Penn State fans very happy.
It's a major moment early in the coaching tenure of Bill O'Brien because the Fork Union quarterback is one of the most coveted signal callers from the Class of 2013.
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound junior was picking up offers right until the last minute. Washington and Stanford sent in offers recently and North Carolina tried to get involved late.
Not long ago Hackenberg took a trip to Penn State and that seemed to seal the deal, as his father Erick said on Wednesday.
"One thing we've always preached to Christian is first of all, when you find that school you'll know it," the elder Hackenberg said. "But we also told him not to be emotional about it. Don't get wrapped up in the emotions of how you got treated on junior day.
"You've got to ask, 'Will I be comfortable here as a student?' If you get hurt and can't play anymore you want to be happy. We've always preached that you've got to make sure you check those boxes.
"When he went to Penn State he really loved the place. Obviously it's a special place. It's a great academic institution, a top 10 public institution. On top of that, from a football standpoint the tradition is the tradition."
His father briefly addressed some of the controversy that engulfed the Penn State program in recent months.
"Everybody has their opinions and they're trying to turn it this way or that way. The reality of it is Penn State is Penn State. It's one of the most recognizable programs in the country. In my opinion Joe Paterno had done more for college football than just about anybody. He's up there with the Bear Bryants of the world.
"With this new staff they've got a new approach. That's not a slap at the previous staff, but it's a new approach and you've still got the tradition and you've still got the academics. It's still Penn State. When he got up there and put all that together it was a great fit."
O'Brien was a key factor in Hackenberg's decision as well.
"He met Coach O'Brien and saw what kind of person he is. That's one thing I told him. I told him to look at who the person is. That's the biggest thing for me as a father. Who am I handing my son over to? He's going from an 18 year old boy to a 22 year old man, so you want to look at their integrity, their ethics and who they are as a person. You don't want him to just make your son a better football player but a better man," he explained. "He saw what they've done and who they are and it felt right."
Location wasn't a big factor in Hackenberg's decision but it helps that they have family somewhat close to the school.
"It's not too far from us and we're from Northeastern Pennsylvania," his father continued. "He's not a homebody by any means but I don't think he wanted to go too far west. He could have gone anywhere on the east coast.
"Grandma and grandpa are a couple of hours away so if he needs a break he can get in a car and go do some fishing or get grandma's cooking."
O'Brien's offensive philosophy was something else the Hackenberg circle analyzed. They know there will be a transition period but still felt it would be a good fit.
"You look at it two ways," he said. "If you look at the big picture it's Penn State.
"Then you look at O'Brien and what he wants to do. Because it's a change in philosophy from the previous staff they're not going to have the kind of kids they want at every position. There's going to be a transition. That's going to be at any place when you have a change like that. You've got to look at what he wants to do and who he's trying to recruit.
"I think it's a great offense for a pro-style quarterback. They're not going to do what Rich Rodriguez does. For a pro-style kid it's a great offense.
"Then you take into account all of the other things. They've got 110,000 fans there and their fan following is as good as anyone. They've taken some blows but you've just got to wake up that sleeping giant. It's a great opportunity for a quarterback."
Hackenberg's father went on to say that Miami, Alabama, Virginia and Tennessee had also been seriously in the running. Florida had made a surge at one point and Rutgers was high on his list for a while. However, the departure of Greg Schiano hurt the Scarlet Knights' chances.
Hackenberg is ranked the No. 153 prospect in the nation by Rivals.com.
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