Hack’s contributions immeasurable

In less than two years as a starter — just 19 games to be exact — Trace McSorley has established himself as one of the most prolific quarterbacks in Penn State history.

There’s no doubt he fits James Franklin’s offense better than Christian Hackenberg, and there’s little doubt that the Nittany Lions would have been better than their 7-6 record in the 2015 season had McSorley played more.

In 2016, his first season as a starter, McSorley was so spectacular in leading comeback victories that he docked the Nittany Lions’ ship in the Indianapolis port reserved for the Big Ten champion.

But if it weren’t for Hackenberg, that ship would have sunk way before it approached Lucas Oil Stadium.

We’re in a what-have-you-done-for-me lately world.

Hackenberg has done nothing in the NFL. He was a second-round pick by the New York Jets, who didn’t allow him to take a single snap as a rookie and did everything they could to help him win the starting job this year. Speculation abounds that the Jets, who will likely have a top-five pick in 2018, will take a quarterback in the first round next year, which means Hackenberg could be released before he ever wins an NFL game as a starter.

Further, once Franklin back-flipped his way from Vanderbilt, Hackenberg’s effectiveness and confidence were pretty much shattered. His mechanics were tampered with, his offensive line was a mess, his heart was broken, and his on-field presence is not missed.

But he’s still one of the most important players in Penn State history.

Despite having his pick of scholarship offers, including Alabama, Hackenberg stayed true to Penn State after the NCAA tried to torch the program.

Shortly after he committed to Bill O’Brien — before he even signed — all of Penn State’s scholarship players were eligible to transfer without penalty through the 2012 season.

Almost none did, and Hackenberg’s arrival in June 2013 signaled renewed hope for a program in desperate need for it.

Under O’Brien’s tutelage, Hackenberg became the national freshman of the year after engineering scintillating victories over Michigan (in four overtimes) and at Wisconsin (as a 24-point underdog).

Several receivers committed to play with Hackenberg, and went on to become great players, including Chris Godwin, Mike Gesicki, DaeSean Hamilton and Saeed Blacknall, hero of the Big Ten title game.

Even in the face of at times disappointing play in his last two seasons, Hackenberg made an imprint that should never be forgotten. Consider the words of an underclassmen spoken after Hackenberg declared for the NFL.

“I can’t even begin to say what Christian has done for me — from a football perspective, how to read a defense, how to lead a team, how to get guys behind you, off the field, how he’s carried himself. Being able to be with him and watch him the last couple years … it’s been an honor for me.”

The player speaking was Trace McSorley.

Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or nrudel@altoonamirror.com.

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