This week we say an early good-bye to Bill O’Brien’s protege. This time I’m not angry at all, though I have to admit I’m feeling a little salty over my failed Hackenberg prediction. There won’t be a Hackenberg-led national championship next year. Truthfully, I’m kind of hoping Hackenberg ends up a Texan since the two obviously had chemistry.
I can’t be anything but happy for Christian Hackenberg. I believe he gave us his best and I wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors. He’ll go down in my Penn State book as a story of loyalty and inspiration. He, like Mauti and Zordich, remained loyal to us in a trying time. I’ll remember him for his commitment, his poise, and his baby face.
It used to make me feel ill-at-ease when a player would forgo his final season of eligibility. What about your degree? I’d think. Football won’t last forever.
But, Hackenberg’s living the words of our alma mater. He stood at childhood’s gate. He was molded by our Dear Old State. He’ll graduate in May. He’s ready for his next step. C.S. Lewis said, “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” If I ran into Christian Hackenberg, that’s what I’d say to him.
I still feel uncomfortable, but it’s not because Christian Hackenberg or Austin Johnson declared for the NFL draft. This season my overwhelming feeling has been discomfort. I’ve easily felt uncomfortable in our losses, but also uncomfortable with our wins. I’m uncomfortable with a big announcement to fire one of the coaches. I’m uncomfortable with the majority of decisions made by the Board of Trustees. I’m even uncomfortable with my own words about Penn State.
I’m just plain uncomfortable.
My dashing husband (he makes me add these adjectives) and I were just talking about how many components there are in a successful program: recruiting to coaches to practices to positions and so much more. I speculated that it would be nearly impossible for any team to go through what ours has and be anything other than discombobulated. We need more time to find cohesion at the least and comfort at best.
Another tough loss in the bowl game last Saturday. I’m not by any means comfortable with it and I’m not going to count it as anything other than a loss. It’s a sad state of affairs when you start feeling the losses as wins because they were close. Still, I can be uncomfortable yet proud that our team didn’t go down without a fight.
Last Sunday, I ran into Mr. K again-- you know, my fifth grade teacher who liked the jersey names--and he said, I can’t believe you’re smiling. My reply was, what else is there to do?
I wasn’t smiling because that loss felt win-ish. And I wasn’t smiling because a mediocre season ended on a positive-ish note. I wasn’t even smiling because our guys didn’t go down without a fight, even though that’s true.
I’m smiling because the place I find comfort in all of this discomfort is in fellow Penn Staters.
Thank you for the opportunity to spend another season sharing my thoughts with you. Thank you for all of your positive comments and reminders that we’re all in this together.
Here’s to a new year filled with new coaches, new quarterbacks, new possibilities. Here’s to another year of Penn State pride.