Christian Hackenberg is giving up football and is going to try to become a professional baseball player. The former Penn State quarterback was selected in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the New York Jets, but he never set foot on the field during a regular-season game.
On Saturday, Rob Kuestner of NBC Philadelphia reported about Hackenberg’s change of career on Twitter. Already starting to try and ramp up for MLB tryouts, Kuestner said the former quarterback is attempting to become a professional pitcher and is already able to throw the ball over 90 miles per hour.
In a subsequent interview, Hackenberg told the reporter he had enough trials and tribulations in football and wanted to give baseball a shot.
“At the end of the day, I’m sitting here at 25. For me… I feel like I’ve got a lot left in the tank.”
As Jessica Kleinschmidt of NBC Sports pointed out, the Penn State alum didn’t set the world on fire on the football field. After being cut by the Jets without taking a snap in an official game, Hackenberg bounced around the league from 2016-2018, playing for the Las Vegas Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles and the Cincinnati Bengals.
In 2019, he left the NFL and signed with the Memphis Express in the Alliance of American Football (AAF). After being named the team’s starter for its opener, he was benched in Week 3 after throwing a trio of interceptions and no touchdowns. As he was leaving the field for halftime of that game, he gave an interview in which fans felt he blamed the Express’ offensive coordinator for his struggles.
When it comes to baseball, Hackenberg hasn’t played since high school. Kleinschmidt said she reached out to one MLB scout to ask whether he had heard about the career change. The scout said he hadn’t heard anything about a bid, asking “The f—-n’ quarterback?”
The scout did say Hackenberg’s family affords him some ties to baseball but couldn’t — or wouldn’t — offer more than that. His younger brother is a standout catcher for the University of Clemson baseball team.
If his high school numbers are anything to go by, a struggle in his new sport could be on the horizon, according to Kleinschmidt. Hackenberg was a solid hitter, batting 378 average across three seasons with a 0.459 on-base percentage. As a pitcher, his earned run average was just below eight, though he was playing first and third base during his career, so he wasn’t focusing on just one position.