Hackenberg "Grinding" to Get to Penn State

The big Penn State logo on the winter hat Christian Hackenberg was wearing while throwing passes on Thursday should be answer enough to anyone who still questions the Fork Union quarterback's college commitment.

Hackenberg -- regarded by 247Sports.com as a five-star recruit, and ranked the best quarterback in the country by ESPN.com -- initially committed to the Nittany Lions last February. And that commitment never wavered, despite the NCAA sanctions brought down against the Penn State program last summer.

Now Hackenberg, who was working out with Joe Sanford of the AthElite Factory at Monticello High School on Thursday, is counting down the days until he can start his college career.

"It's grinding on me right now. But you've got to wait for good things," Hackenberg said with a smile. "So I'm just really going to start focusing in on working out really hard right now, and pushing myself to get better and be able to physically and mentally be able to go up there and compete for the job."

Earlier this week, Hackenberg was named to the VISAA Division 1 all-state first team. He threw for 2,144 yards and 22 touchdowns as a senior this season at Fork Union, and helped the Blue Devils reach the VISAA Division 1 state title game.

Next week, Hackenberg will leave for Florida, where he'll play in the 2013 Under Armour All-American Game on January 4. The game is a showcase for many of the top high school seniors in the country.

"I think it's best for me, being able to go down and do this for a week, and then play in the game, so we get adjusted to that speed and see it again," Hackenberg said. "Really being able to get live bullets flying at you and that type of thing, it's going to be good for me, and really set me on my way to be prepared to take the next step to college football."

Hackenberg said Thursday that the decision of whether he'll redshirt as a freshman was up to Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien and quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher.

The Nittany Lions only have one quarterback returning from this year's team -- rising sophomore Steven Bench, who served as senior Matt McGloin's back-up this season. Junior college quarterback Tyler Ferguson signed his letter-of-intent to play at Penn State on Thursday, and he'll join the team in January.

Despite the NCAA's sanctions, Penn State went 8-4 in its first season under O'Brien, the former offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots. And McGloin set or tied four single-season school records, including throwing for 3,266 yards and 24 touchdown passes.

"I can't say enough about what Coach O'Brien did up there with those guys, and his whole staff," Hackenberg said. "That was a great season, and the seniors and the team really showed they have a lot of heart."

"I can't wait to really step up into that situation, and sort of be ready to play with those types of players. Because I know they're going to sell out for me every game, and I'm going to sell out for them," he added. "It's a really good locker room atmosphere up there, and this season was just fantastic."

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