Hackenberg told NBC 10 Philadelphia he plans to abandon his NFL career so he can play baseball. The 25-year-old Penn State product will attempt the comeback as a pitcher. Hackenberg, who throws with his right hand, has a 92-mph fastball.
"I feel like I've got a lot left in the tank," Hackenberg said. "And if one door closes, and I have the opportunity to open another one, why not do it?"
Hackenberg played football, basketball and baseball at Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy before he starred for the Nittany Lions. He joined the Jets as the No. 51 overall player in the 2016 NFL Draft. The Jets traded Hackenberg to the Oakland Raiders in 2018. He was released before the 2018 season. Hackenberg also spent time with the Philadelphia Eagles and Cincinnati Bengals but never appeared in an NFL regular-season game.
Hackenberg spent a brief time in the Alliance of American Football before the new league disbanded in April 2019. He has since trained with Rutgers-Camden baseball coach Ryan Kulik to prepare for a career on the diamond.
"Do I think he could pitch in the big leagues one day? I really do," Kulik told the New York Post. "Because he is just scratching the surface with what we're doing now, and I'm already seeing results and improvement.
"If he continues to do this for another year, there's no reason he can't be 95-plus. He wants it."
Hackenberg could be on a similar path to that of former Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. Tebow, 32, was a first-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft before he joined the New York Mets organization. The former Heisman Trophy winner has worked his way up to the Triple-A level and has yet to make his MLB debut.
Both of their goals to reach the big leagues are shelved at the moment, as the MLB season remains suspended and the Minor League Baseball season is expected to be canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"It's like, as simple as I can put it, I just want to compete," Hackenberg said.