Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Penn State player with the biggest impact isn't even on the team

Football recruiting has become highly publicized, reported and influential. Last summer the perception of Penn State football had become dire. At that intersection of time, place and opportunity, Christian Hackenberg stepped to the forefront

A telling newspaper comic strip showed someone looking at the TV, and the TV anchor was saying, "The stock market declined today over fears the stock market would decline."

The players who transferred or de-committed from Penn State after the NCAA sanctions hit in July didn't leave because they might not get to play in a bowl game. They mostly left because of fears the program would decline, precipitously.

Christian Hackenberg is still almost two weeks from signing his letter of intent, but his impact on the Penn State football program already is historic.

Heck, he's right up there with Michael Mauti, everybody's current favorite Lion.

Woah! Mauti?


If that seems ridiculous to say about a kid who hasn't graduated high school, and won't practice with PSU or take a class in Happy Valley until the summer, and who we really don't know much about, well, it isn't.

Because this isn't about performance or production, or what you've actually done at Penn State.

It's also not about projecting what Hackenberg will do as a player at PSU - what he could do, or might do, on the Beaver Stadium field.

It's about impact on Penn State football. Present impact and future impact.

What has been Hackenberg's impact? He has almost single-handedly thwarted - to borrow a famous old phrase - the relentless onslaught of the nattering nabobs of negativism.

By simply committing to Penn State before the NCAA sanctions hit, and then sticking with it afterward. Through the mayhem.

Due to his fame and exalted stature in the recruiting world, Hackenberg has been vital in keeping Penn State from being sucked into the great abyss.

You know the abyss. It's the one created by Jerry Sandusky and the PSU Board of Trustees, fed steroids by Louis Freeh and, finally, bloated beyond all reason by Mark Emmert and the NCAA.

That abyss. Penn State football was hog-tied, browbeat and being forced into it ...

Except that Bill O'Brien, Mauti, Gerald Hodges, Jordan Hill, Stephon Morris, Matt McGloin, Michael Zordich, et al, scratched and clawed the Lions back from the brink.

Now? Penn State, incredibly, is in the process of skipping right past the abyss. Which precisely no one on earth was forecasting back in July, August and September.

And Hackenberg has been a pillar in that process. By simply committing to PSU (less than two months after O'Brien arrived), and then sticking with that commitment, unwavering and steadfast, throughout all the abyss-expanding chaos.

Because, in the intensely monitored universe of football recruiting, Hackenberg is a superstar.

He's Denzel Washington. People want to be in movies with Denzel Washington.

Hackenberg is rated a 5-star prospect and the top pro-style quarterback by most recruiting services. rates him the No. 1 QB and No. 7 overall prospect nationally. He's drawn comparisons to NFL stars Matt Ryan and Jay Cutler.

He's a big deal.

The "new image" for Penn State football, the one the NCAA tried so hard to falsely create with its vicious sanctions and hollow, bogus upbraiding from Emmert? ThatPenn State football was dead program walking. It was an image the media lapped up like Lassie.

Hackenberg didn't lap.

And in large part because Hackenberg didn't fall for it, others haven't fallen for it.

Sure, a handful of highly regarded PSU commits rode the negative tide of Emmert's grandstanding sanction announcement and quickly decommitted, fleeing to Michigan, Notre Dame, Pitt and North Carolina.

Then it was done. Hackenberg led the cadre who stayed committed. Firmly.

So did elite TE recruit Adam Breneman and many others - all of whom surely had other pursuers hard after them - such as Brandon Bell, Curtis Cothran, Brendan Mahon, Andrew Nelson, Neiko Robinson and Garrett Sickels. And, Jordan Smith committed the moment he received an offer in late July, right after the sanctions dropped.

Perception is powerful. Confidence is critical. Symbols are important.

Hackenberg, due to his extremely high profile, has been The Stabilizer for PSU recruiting. He has been the searing symbol, the beacon, that declares Bill O'Brien and Penn State football, counter to all punditry, will continue to be a major factor.

Every year there are a handful of recruits everyone knows. In the world of college football recruiting, everyone knows Christian Hackenberg. 

And everyone knows he's going to Penn State. When no one outside of Penn State expected him to stick with Penn State.

That's an impact.

For more insight, analysis and opinions about Penn State football, check RumblingsFromBeaverStadium.blogspot.comor follow Pete Young on Twitter @AllPSUfootball.

No comments:

Post a Comment