Former Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg will head to the NFL after getting selected by the New York Jets in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft on Friday night (51st overall).
He was the first Big Ten quarterback to be selected, and went the highest of any Big Ten quarterback since 2007, when Michigan State’s Drew Stanton was the 43rd overall pick in that year’s draft. Teammate Austin Johnson was the first Penn State player to be selected in this year’s draft after the Titans picked him 43rd overall.
“So thrilled for Christian to hear his name called at the NFL Draft,” said Penn State head coach James Franklin in a statement. “He bled blue and white during his three years at Penn State and we are thankful for his contributions to the program and community. He has all the tools to be successful at the next level and I know he has a bright future ahead of him with the Jets.”
The 6-foot-4, 223-pound Virginia native arrived at a Penn State football program led by now-Texans head coach Bill O’Brien in 2013; one that was reeling from the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal and the ensuing NCAA sanctions levied against the program. O’Brien and his pro-style system left for the NFL after Hackenberg’s freshman season, and the university hired Franklin to fill the vacancy. The quarterback had well-documented transfer options, but stayed put at Penn State.
Three years later, Hackenberg became the school’s all-time leading passer with 8,547 yards, the touchdown leader with 48, both the attempts and completions leader with 1,235 and 693, respectively, and is the all-time leader in total offense with 8,215 yards.
“I am so happy for Christian to see his NFL dream realized,” said former Penn State quarterbacks coach (now tight ends coach) Ricky Rahne in a statement. “Christian has all of the tools — including a strong arm and great football IQ — to make him a successful quarterback at the next level. I am really looking forward to seeing what Christian does on Sundays.”
He is one of just eight Penn State quarterbacks to top the 5,000-yard mark, one of three to surpass the 6,000 career passing yards and joins Zack Mills as the only 7,000-yard passers in program history.
Additionally, Hackenberg owns the Penn State record for passing yards in a game (454; 2014), passing yards in consecutive games (773; 2014), pass attempts in a game (55; 2013), season completions (270; 2014 — tied with Matt McGloin) and pass attempts in a season (484; 2014).
As a freshman, Hackenberg broke one Penn State overall passing record and 12 school freshman passing records, including the rookie highs for game and season passing completions, attempts, yards and touchdown passes.
Since his freshman year, the quarterback started all 38 games before declaring his intent to enter the 2016 draft after Penn State’s TaxSlayer Bowl loss at the end of his junior year.
The young signal-caller has been one of the more intriguing NFL prospects this spring, after two years in which he took a combined 85 sacks and threw 28 touchdowns alongside 21 interceptions. Those sophomore and junior campaigns were a far cry from his standout freshman year in which he threw for almost 3,000 yards, 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Hackenberg will sign a four-year rookie deal, the minimum base salaries of which are $450,000 (Year 1), $525,000 (Year 2), $600,000 (Year 3), $675,000 (Year 4).
The soon-to-be rookie will join head coach Todd Bowles, quarterback Geno Smith, who was drafted in the second round by the Jets in 2013 out of West Virginia, and veteran free agent Ryan Fitzpatrick. Former Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty also adds to the Jets’ depth at quarterback. He was drafted in the fourth round of the 2015 draft and has yet to see the field.
NFL reporter Ian Rapoport said after the pick that the Jets plan to re-sign Fitzpatrick to a one-year deal and sit Hackenberg behind him to “let him grow.”