Hackenberg is Here to ‘Love the Process’
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Not much has gone right for Christian Hackenberg is his short NFL career but the former Penn State star is eager to set foot in the Eagles' famed quarterback incubator which helped turn Carson Wentz from small-school project to MVP candidate in less than two years and morphed Nick Foles from journeyman backup to Super Bowl MVP in a matter of weeks.
At 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds Hackenberg had his most success in State College under Bill O'Brien, the current Houston Texans coach, who built a pro-style system around Hackenberg with the Nittany Lions.
When O'Brien left for the NFL, James Franklin came in and Hackenberg regressed trying to fit into a spread offense but still ended up the No. 51 overall pick by the New York Jets in the 2016 draft, the same year Philadelphia got Wentz at No. 2 overall.
Nothing went right for Hackenberg with the Jets and the organization gave up on him, trading Hackenberg to Oakland for a conditional draft pick earlier this offseason.
Jon Gruden, however, lamented the fact that he just didn't have enough reps for Hackenberg with Derek Carr, EJ Manuel and Connor Cook already in the Bay Area and ultimately released the 23-year-old.
"It was my first training camp I haven’t been in since I can remember, in some form," Hackenberg said of his recent travails. "It was tough and it was a lot of work, like I said. But being able to finally get that call and come in and do things, it puts things in perspective. You take things for granted so many times in your life and you don’t miss it until it’s taken away from you a little bit. I understand it wasn’t a year or anything like that. There have been way crazier stories. But getting a taste of that isn’t a good sandwich to bite into. Really just being here, a smile on my face and enjoying every minute of it."
The Eagles brought Hackenberg in for a workout on Sunday and liked what they saw even though there are already four QBs on the roster: Wentz, Foles, Nate Sudfeld and Joe Callahan.
"I came in for a workout yesterday and hung around for a little bit, ended up signing and got thrown into a walkthrough," Hackenberg explained. "Then drive back to house in Jersey to pick up a bag of clothes, drive back to the hotel, so it’s been kind of hectic. But it’s like, I was sitting on my couch for the past two months, working out, going and flying all over the place, so it just feels good to be back on the field, have some pads on … whether it would be watching practice for right now, or being able to stay after for 20-35 minutes and actually get good work in with the team, I think that’s what you miss the most."
Hackenberg also worked out for New England and Houston, where he could have reunited with O'Brien but the opportunity to work with Pederson and the Super Bowl champions was too good to pass up even with the crowded depth chart.
"I think Coach Pederson, Coach [Press] Taylor and all those guys do a great job," Hackenberg said. "So I think for me, being able to learn as much as I can from those specific individuals, I think made it a good opportunity. And I got a lot of respect for Carson. We came out together (in 2016 draft), so being able to kind of pick his brain, he’s been in this system for a long time, and Nick obviously has had a lot of things go on in his career, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to come in, learn, push myself, compete and get back in."
As for the end game, Hackenberg is just focusing on the opportunity to get better. the rest will ultimately take care of itself.
"Everyone focuses on results," he said. "The media focuses on results. All these people who aren’t in this really focus on the results, but the one thing that I found that has been really cool is falling in love with the process and making sure you master each step if that makes sense. I feel it gets overlooked oftentimes, so trying not to get too far ahead of myself. I think just making sure every day I do everything I can."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen