Christian Hackenberg and Tim Tebow became household names playing quarterback at major universities. The former looked like a potential star as a freshman at Penn State. The latter put together arguably the most impressive career in college football history.
Unfortunately, neither lived up to the hype in the NFL. That didn’t stop Tebow from pursuing a baseball career. And now, Christian Hackenberg is following in his footsteps.
Tim Tebow and Christian Hackenberg were highly-hyped college quarterbacks
Just over a decade ago, Tim Tebow took the college football world by storm. The University of Florida quarterback won the Heisman as a sophomore after throwing for 32 touchdowns and running for 23 more. The left-handed signal-caller couldn’t have been a better fit for Urban Meyer’s spread system.
Two more highly productive years and two national championship trophies later, Tebow cemented his status as a college football legend. By the time he wrapped up his terrific four-year career, the Gators superstar had thrown for nearly 10,000 yards while running for almost 3,000 more.
Years later, another talented quarterback became a national name to follow. Christian Hackenberg boasted the frame, arm, and all the physical tools to succeed. As a freshman, he showed tremendous potential. Playing for Bill O’Brien, Hackenberg threw for 2,955 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Unfortunately, he never matched that freshman year performance. Erratic play and a penchant for turnovers gave NFL scouts great concern about Hackenberg’s next-level fit. Still, he got plenty of hype coming out of college given his prototype build.
Tebow flopped in the NFL before embarking on baseball career
Josh McDaniels decided Tim Tebow had the skill set to run his offense. Surprisingly, the Denver Broncos made the former Florida standout a first-round pick. Let’s just say the move didn’t pay off.
Though Tebow did lead the Broncos to a playoff victory, he never made the successful transition to the NFL. He started just 14 games before getting traded to the New York Jets. Tebow threw just eight passes and got cut a year later.
In August 2016, he officially announced his new career path. Despite not playing baseball since his junior year of high school, Tebow still got a minor league contract from the New York Mets. Since then, he’s spent the last few years in the team’s minor league system. In 2019, the former NFL quarterback hit just .163 for the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate.
Overall, Tim Tebow has a career batting average of .223 to go along with an on-base percentage of .299. The 32-year-old hit just .154 in 10 spring training games this year.
Hackenberg’s journey from NFL draft bust to MLB hopeful
Like Tim Tebow, Christian Hackenberg turned out to be a colossal failure in the NFL. Many of the same problems that plagued him in college followed him to New York. The Jets shocked everyone by drafting Hackenberg 51st overall in 2016. Incredibly, he performed so poorly in practice and the preseason that he never attempted a single pass during a regular-season game.
After the 2017 season, the Jets traded Hackenberg to the Oakland Raiders. He bounced on and off several rosters during the 2018 season before taking his “talents” to the Alliance of American Football. Hackenberg threw three interceptions in three starts before he got benched.
With football out of the picture, Hackenberg has decided to take the Tebow route. Now, he’s swapped out a helmet and shoulder pads for a baseball cap and glove. According to ESPN, the 25-year-old still feels like he has a lot left in the tank as he pursues a pitching career. His agent, Noel LaMontagne, provided some insight on Hackenberg’s baseball pursuit.
“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.”
Ironically, just as he did on the football field, Hackenberg struggled to throw with any accuracy back in his high-school pitching days. He issued 40 walks in 25 2/3 innings while posting an ugly 7.36 ERA.