With his professional football career seemingly in the rearview mirror, former NFL quarterback Christian Hackenberg is now hoping to try his hand as a Major League pitcher.
“I feel like I’ve got a lot left in the tank,” Hackenberg told NBC Sports Philadelphia. “And if one door closes and I have the opportunity to open another one, why not do it?”
A second-round pick by the Jets in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Penn State alum never appeared in an NFL game, not counting the preseason.
Hackenberg, a right-hander, didn’t play baseball at Penn State, but he did play in high school at the Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy. According to Max Preps, which tracks high school sports stats, Hackenberg threw 25 2/3 innings at Fork Union, posting a 7.36 ERA, walking 40 batters and striking out 33. He also hit .378 with 10 homers in 148 at-bats.
Hackenberg is reportedly being trained by Ryan Kulik, the head coach at Rutgers-Camden and a former Minor League pitcher in the Cardinals and Rockies organizations.
“He’s been up to 92 [mph], but I’d say right now he’s consistently [throwing] 90,” Kulik said. “But he just started throwing. It’s going to take him some time, but I think he can get to 95-plus in no time.”
Former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, who also played for the Jets as well as the Broncos, has made the transition from pro football to baseball with some success in recent years. After debuting in the Arizona Fall League in 2016, Tebow reached Triple-A in the Mets' system in '19, putting up a .495 OPS with four homers in 77 games before a laceration on his left hand ended his season.