Former Jets QB Christian Hackenberg is attempting a comeback as a pitcher in the MLB.
Hackenberg who was a 2nd round pick by the Jets in 2016, was one of the biggest disappointments in recent NFL history. At the young age of 26, Hackenberg is already washed out at football. He now moves on from football and heads towards the MLB.
The Jets gave up on Hackenberg after two seasons, and he became only the third quarterback selected in the first or second round of the common-draft era (since 1967) to not play a game in his first two seasons. The Jets then traded Hackenberg to the Oakland Raiders in May 2018. He lasted less than three weeks before being released by coach Jon Gruden, who was complimentary of Hackenberg when he came out of Penn State. Hackenberg spent three weeks on the Philadelphia Eagles preseason roster before landing on the Cincinnati Bengals' practice squad for two months. After this, Hackenberg left the NFL and went to the Memphis Express, which is part of the Alliance of American Football league(AAF), which is now defunct.
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Obviously, Hackenberg didn't turn out to be the QB he was expected to be. His football profile is better than most as he is lucky to make the NFL, but one of the worst profiles for any high draft pick. Now that Hackenberg is on to the MLB, does he have a chance?
Hackenberg played high school ball as a pitcher at Fork Union Military Academy in Fork Union, Virginia. In 25 2/3 innings pitched, he struck out 33 batters, walked 40, recorded five HBP and pitched to a 7.36 ERA, according to Max Preps. He was better as a hitter, with 10 home runs and a .378 average in 148 at-bats. Hackenberg is a righty both in football and baseball, and throws in the 90's. He pitched mainly in relief, showing a live but erratic arm, which is a lot like his quarterback play. He is currently working himself into shape and making progress, according to his agent, Noel LaMontagne. Here is what his agent had to say about his client.
"He isn't rushing anything and is being smart about not putting his health in a bad situation," LaMontagne said in an email to ESPN. "He's young, has the work ethic, a ton of natural arm talent, plenty of athleticism and the focus it takes to put himself in a position to have a chance."
Below is an interview with Hackenberg on reaching his MLB goal.
For the last month, Hackenberg has been training with Kulik, coach at NCAA Division III Rutgers-Camden and trainer at All Pro Baseball Academy in Williamstown who is working out of his backyard during quarantine. They talk every day and get on the mound once or twice per week. This shows the dedication Hackenberg has to become an MLB pitcher.
“It’s not a joke,” Kulik said. “He’s all-in. He wants to do whatever it takes to reach his goal. And I think he can.”
Rutgers-Camden catcher Tommy Gosse is Hackenberg’s bullpen batterymate. He mixes in fastballs, changeups and curveballs.
“He hits the mitt,” Gosse said. “No dirt balls. I’m not blocking every pitch, by any means. I set up a spot and right now he is hitting it. Sometimes I have to take a step back, like, ‘Wow, he is making this transition and learning so quick."
Hackenberg has potential to become a star pitcher if he puts the dedication and hard work in. He is still at the young age of 26, and this makes it reasonable and reachable to become an MLB pitcher!