Hackenberg stays true to Penn State

December, 28, 2012
12/28/12
4:00
PM ET
ESPN The Magazine's NEXT issue, which focuses on sport's future stars, has a piece on future Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg.

In the article, Hackenberg -- who is ESPN's top-rated high school quarterback -- talks about his firm commitment to the Nittany Lions even after the NCAA sanctions came down last summer:
Before the Hackenbergs had moved to Virginia, when Christian was 8, they lived in Pennsylvania's coal country, and Penn State was like a light on the horizon, a distant dream. Now the entire order of things had changed. The letters to the Hackenberg house came from Bill O'Brien, who had followed the shamed Joe Paterno, who had failed to stop the monster Jerry Sandusky. It was the names that no one could have imagined changing that had.

And yet somehow Hackenberg still saw that light on the horizon. He visited State College, and words fail him when he tries to describe the feeling. "I really can't explain it," he says. "It just felt like home to me." He and [prep coach Micky] Sullivan talked at length. "I argued with him, playing the devil's advocate," Sullivan says. "But he stuck with Penn State every step of the way." ...

Four of his fellow recruits changed their minds, but in the end, he stayed true to the plan. "My parents, the way they brought me up," Hackenberg says, "being loyal to your word was something they instilled in me." ...

Hackenberg, perhaps to quiet the many doubters and second-guessers, has purposely not left himself any outs. Speaking to him for this column, for this very public letter of intent, I can't help asking him if he's sure -- if he wants to hold off, just in case. "No, we're good," he says. "I'm not going anywhere." (His Twitter bio already reads "Nittany Lion for life.") Someone like Nick Saban could make one last push before signing day on Feb. 6, but in Hackenberg's mind, he has no more decisions to make.

Hackenberg could come in and compete for the starting job right away, or Penn State may choose to redshirt him and groom him for the future. Either way, it's exciting for the Nittany Lions to envision his talent paired with O'Brien's coaching. They are thankful that Hackenberg is sticking by the school through some tough times.

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