QB Hackenberg reaffirms commitment to Franklin, Penn State
Christian Hackenberg has a two-word answer for those who question whether he considered transferring from Penn State in recent weeks: “I didn't.”
The Nittany Lions quarterback and reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year maintains he is committed to Penn State, calling it “a special place” that “would be tough to leave.”
So Hackenberg didn't, even after the head coach with whom he grew close, Bill O'Brien, left to become coach of the Houston Texans two weeks ago.
Hackenberg and his father, Erick, met with new coach James Franklin on Sunday, the only one-on-one meeting Franklin had with any of his players during his first 72 hours as coach.
“He really didn't have to sell me on anything,” Hackenberg said Wednesday in his first media availability since the Lions completed an 8-4 season Nov. 30. “I'm still here. This is where I want to play ball.”
Much was made about the meeting between the player who was one of the nation's top recruits prior to last season and the coach who was hired after leading perennial bottom-feeder Vanderbilt to consecutive nine-win seasons.
Erick Hackenberg created fan anxiety when he told The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News on New Year's Day that he was non-committal about his son's future.
But Wednesday, the younger Hackenberg insisted he never considered transferring from Penn State, a university he stuck with despite NCAA sanctions levied the summer after he made a verbal commitment but before he signed a letter of intent.
“Not at all,” Hackenberg said. “I'm here and not going anywhere else.”
Of his meeting with Franklin, Hackenberg said, “I didn't go in there expecting to hear anything. It was more just me sitting down with who's going to be the head coach who's going to lead us.”
Similar to the adjectives many of his teammates used to describe their first impression of Franklin, Hackenberg described Franklin as “high intensity.”
“He's a very fiery guy who really loves the game of football,” Hackenberg said. “He really loves coaching it. I can't wait to get on the field with him.”
Franklin has been an offensive coach throughout his career and was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach over his final five seasons as an assistant (at Kansas State and Maryland) before his first head-coaching job at Vanderbilt.
Franklin, who Minnesota Vikings quarterback Josh Freeman credited with turning him into a first-round NFL Draft pick, was a record-breaking quarterback at Division II East Stroudsburg two decades ago.
“(Coaches who are former quarterbacks) have been there and done that and seen everything you've done,” Hackenberg said. “They've been in almost every situation you've been in so … I think they appreciate what you're doing more. I'm excited to work with Coach Franklin.”
Hackenberg's relationship with O'Brien – both personal and in football – was well-chronicled. Hackenberg recalled O'Brien's phone call to him Dec. 31 in which he was informed that O'Brien was no longer going to be his coach.
“It was tough,” Hackenberg said. “But I wish him the best of luck. He's moving forward with his life and we're moving forward with what we have to do at Penn State.”