On Thursday night at the Linc, Christian Hackenberg will look across the field and see the team that drafted him and the same team that gave up on him two years later. He'll have no choice but to think about the time in his life when he went from prized prospect to the butt of jokes.
And he's playing it off like he doesn't care.
"This whole league's a business," Hackenberg said Tuesday. "I think it's wasted energy to even think about it all that much. It's just a cool opportunity to go out and play football for me, no matter who it is."
It's a little hard to believe that.
But maybe Hackenberg really is that mature. It's impressive if he is. Because the chance to face the team that drafted you in the second round and traded you for a conditional seventh two years later has to be appealing.
The Jets traded Hackenberg to the Raiders in May, but he was cut less than a month later, negating the trade. Hackenberg was on the street, until he signed with the Eagles on Aug. 12 as their fifth-string quarterback. He hasn't yet gotten into a game. But Hackenberg will play Thursday night and this could be one of his last chances to prove he has what it takes to play in the NFL. It's almost poetic that this game comes against his former team.
How does Hackenberg look back at his time with the Jets?
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"Everything is a learning experience," he said. "Being able to take things and turn them into positives and grow from them, I think that's the most important thing. I tend to be a glass half full guy, so everything that happened, happened for a reason. Everything is a good learning experience for me."
It's also a far cry from when Hackenberg, before he was traded, told New York reporters that it was "frustrating" he wasn't given instruction from Jets coaches on how to fix his mechanical flaws. That led to his hiring a private QB coach - Jeff Christensen - to help.
As the fifth-string quarterback in Philly, Hackenberg hasn't gotten many practice reps. That has forced him to get in as much work as he can after practice, throwing to a couple receivers who want some extra work as well. But with that work and the mental reps, Hackenberg thinks he knows enough of the offense to look comfortable Thursday.
And he might have a slight advantage.
"I played with a lot of these guys," Hackenberg said. "I know Coach (Todd) Bowles and his defense. It'll be fun."
It'll also be like any other game, according to Hack.
Sure it will.