Written by Chris Kubala
Over the past few decades, we’ve seen plenty of two-sport athletes. Bo Jackson, Brian Jordan and Deion Sanders all had solid careers on both the diamond and the gridiron. Jackson may have been the best of them, finishing with a career .250 average with 141 homers, 415 RBI and 82 stolen bases, including an All-Star Game appearance in 1989 where he won the MVP after leading off the bottom of the first with a homer. In the NFL, he followed that up with 515 carries for 2,782 yards and 16 scores while adding 40 receptions for 352 yards and two scores. It’s hard to fathom how much more damage he could have done had he not suffered a hip injury in the Raiders’ AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Bengals in January 1991.
Of course, for all the guys that have had success in multiple sports, there are those who are mediocre, or worse, when they try their hand at different sports. A prime example of that is Tim Tebow, who won the Heisman Trophy at Florida and was drafted by the Broncos. He spent two seasons in Denver before being traded to the Jets after the Broncos signed Peyton Manning. Tebow was out of the league after the 2012 season despite preseason appearances with New England in 2013 and Philadelphia in 2015. He then turned to baseball and has been in the Mets’ organization: he hit a measly .163 with four homers, 19 RBI and 98 strikeouts in 264 at-bats in 77 games with Triple-A Syracuse in the International League last season.
Now, another failed quarterback is trying to resurrect his stalled athletic career by returning to the diamond. Christian Hackenberg, who was a second-round pick of the Jets in the 2016 NFL Draft, is now hoping that he can make the transition to baseball as a pitcher after his NFL career was a complete bust. Hackenberg became just the third quarterback since the common-era draft (starting in 1967) to be drafted in the first or second round to not play a NFL game in his first two seasons. For that matter, Hackenberg never played a NFL game period in his career. He was dealt to the Raiders in 2018 and was cut loose three weeks later. Then, he spent time with the Eagles in the preseason, the Bengals’ practice squad, and even was in the AAF before it folded.
Hackenberg has a long road to travel as he hasn’t been involved in baseball since high school. Even then, he wasn’t something to write home about as he posted a 7.36 ERA with 40 walks and 33 strikeouts over 25.2 innings in 16 appearances as a senior. He seemed to be a better hitter than he was with a pitcher as his control issues were a major problem. Reports say that he can throw in the 90 mile an hour range and has hit 92 mph on a couple of occasions so far. Hackenberg has said that he has respect for trying to make the transition to baseball and realizes the challenge that lies ahead.
“I’ve got too much respect for the game of baseball. I understand how hard it is to hit a ball. I got the arm. I have the arm talent. Can I get to the point where I have some good command and control? And can I get to the point where I’m out competing at a high level where I think I belong? Mentally is what I miss the most, I think.”
It's going to be an uphill climb for Hackenberg to even reach the quasi-relevance of Tebow on the diamond. This looks to be an attempt to try and further a career that went down in flames. Whether that pans out is anyone’s guess but the safe bet is that he’s going to be a disappointment once again.