As the Jerry Sandusky trial came and went, many outside of Penn State University were talking about the decline of the football program and of the school. For people inside the community, however, it has almost become a mission to become tighter and stronger.
Two of the people that symbolize that resurgence won’t even step foot on campus until 2013 – but they certainly have helped galvanize the football program and in some ways, the university as a whole. Certainly, they understand that football can’t wipe out the tragedies of what happened. But they also understand the role football plays on campus and throughout the community.
Penn State recruits Adam Breneman and Christian Hackenberg are just two of 13 verbal commits so far for the 2013 recruiting class – but they have become the leaders of the class and symbols of the school moving past the horror of the last eight months.
“Christian and I have taken the role of being the leaders of this class,” said Breneman while watching Hackenberg and his younger brother at the Elite 25 Quarterback Showcase in Lancaster Friday. “It takes a different kind of player to be part of this and we want to be difference makers.”
Currently, the Nittany Lions have a top 10-15 recruiting class – depending on what rankings you look at.
“If you look on Twitter under the hashtag “Restore the Roar” – that’s us and that’s what we want to do. We’re not done yet, our goal is to have a top five class.”
Hackenberg echoed those statements.
“We started off really good and now we picked up steam again with the addition of Dorian Johnson and Zach Bradshaw,” said Hackenberg, who was also at the Lancaster QB Showcase. “We have had a lot of success and we want to be the ones that bring back that pride.”
Hackenberg had an outstanding Rivals100 Challenge last weekend in Atlanta and is now preparing for the Elite 11 camp in California.
“There’s a new energy with the program,” said Hackenberg, who was born in Tamaqua, Pa. and grew up in northeastern Pennsylvania before moving to Virginia. “Coach O’Brien has brought that and he’s the biggest reason I’m going to Penn State.”
Neither Hackenberg nor Breneman are concerned what others think or say about the program. They have formed their own ideas.
“Outsiders don’t understand what it means to be a Penn Stater,” Breneman said. “I grew up as a Penn State fan and had to separate that when making my decision. I’ve gotten some hate mail and heard all the nasty comments and jokes. But those people just don’t get it. One guy will not tear the university down.”
Hackenberg preparing for competitions
Hackenberg, 6-4, 215, attends Fork Union Military Academy in Fork Union, Va. and is listed as a four-star recruit by both Rivals and Scout and is ranked as the No. 1 quarterback in the nation by ESPN. He has been to camps and competitions all over the country this spring and summer and has continued to receive rave reviews.
“It’s just an honor,” he said. “I’ve been blessed with ability and I just want to make the best of it.”
Next up for the quarterback will be the Elite 11 camp, which is led by head coach Trent Dilfer of ESPN and will be televised by ESPN. The camp is July 18-22 in Redondo Beach, Cal.
Hackenberg has seen last year’s camp on DVD and knows he has to prepare.
“I just got the playbook and it’s not easy but that’s the biggest thing I have to do to get ready. I have to learn that playbook.”
Breneman eyeing recovery
Breneman, 6-5, 228 and the No. 1 ranked tight end in the nation according to Rivals.com, tore his ACL in a non-contact drill before a 7-on-7 tournament last month. He was walking normally Friday with a sleeve on his knee. He is scheduled to have surgery July 10 by Penn State doctor Wayne Sebastianelli.
“I have been riding a stationary bike and walking on a treadmill,” Breneman said. “They wanted to wait that long to make sure all the swelling went down.”
Breneman said he plans to be enrolled and on the Penn State campus by Jan. 5 so he can take part in spring practice and maybe even be ready for the Blue-White game.
Breneman will miss playing his senior season at Cedar Cliff High but plans to be as big part of the team.
“I guess I’ll be a player-coach,” he said half jokingly. “I’m going to help both the offense an defense and I’m going to learn all the signals this summer so I can help during the game.”
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