A Newgen Magazine

1, 2, 3 … 4? Hackenberg brothers are sports legacy

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Adam Hackenberg is not a household name for White Sox supporters, with the catcher taking part in his first big league Spring Training ranked as the club’s No. 30 prospect by MLB Pipeline.

But the Hackenberg name certainly holds cachet in the sports world.

“I would put this family’s resume up against anybody’s,” said Christian Hackenberg, the oldest of four brothers. “It’s probably a very small group of people that have had this type of success.”

Christian might be the most well-known of the group. As a standout quarterback for Penn State from 2013-15, he threw for 8,457 yards and 48 touchdowns before being selected by the New York Jets in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft.

Brandon is next on the Hackenberg list as a professional soccer player for Orlando City B in the MLS Next Pro League. Drue, the youngest of the Hackenberg brothers, went 10-2 with a 3.30 ERA over 17 games (16 starts) as a freshman for Virginia Tech in 2022. 

“I hope we draft him,” a smiling Adam said of Drue. “He’s a stud. It’s always nice having somebody on the baseball side of it.”

Let’s not forget Adam, who was taken by the White Sox out of Clemson in the 18th round of the 2021 MLB Draft. The 23-year-old hit .223 with eight home runs and 31 RBIs over stops at High-A Winston-Salem and then as part of Project Birmingham in ’22.

Adam already is a solid catch-and-throw guy with raw power, although still early in his development. He caught 88 regular season games last season, while also playing another 16 games for the Glendale Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League, meaning he caught more games in ‘22 than three years combined at Clemson.

“So, that’s a lot, but I made it through healthy and felt good about it,” Adam said. “The last month was tough. Those workouts got rough toward the end, but you gotta do them to stay healthy.”

This Hackenberg athletic lineage started with their parents, Erick and Nikki, with Erick playing quarterback in high school and college, and Nikki being a collegiate volleyball player. They preached to their sons how actions speak louder than words, manifesting itself in Christian, the oldest, frequently challenging his brothers.

If Christian was playing in a pickup basketball game, he would pull Adam, who was four years younger, with him. Adam listened and watched well, even if he wasn’t the most talkative, according to Christian. 

“He may not seem that interested, and then he’ll surprise you three months later and ask you about something you did or why you did that or how to make you better,” Christian said. “He asked for a freaking weight sled, like a harnessed weight sled, for Christmas when he was 8 or 9 years old. He was just wired really different. 

“My parents are big on us leading by example. If they asked something, I tried to tell them why and then I pushed them every time I could.”

Work put in by Christian, who is now coaching high school football in New Jersey while working for a tech company and doing some media, made it easy for the rest of the Hackenbergs, according to Adam. They watched him get up for 6 a.m. workouts and it just became what they did as a family.

“Our parents sort of laid that foundation in us, having a good work ethic,” Adam said. “Everything else takes care of itself. Controlling what you can control.

“From the day that I started playing sports, it was just like, ‘What’s Christian doing? Let me do that and I’ll be OK.’ He obviously has taught me a lot. Every time I call him it’s, ‘If you ever need to talk about the game or life, managing off the field stuff while you are in this business, I’m always here.’” 

Now, it’s the younger Hackenberg brother’s chance to take center stage. 

“I had my path, and I had my things, and being able to impress that on them and have a second chance through them, to see them succeed and do everything they want to do, is great,” Christian said. “Then you know just the proud big brother aspect.

“Seeing them chug along and continue to do well, and continue to grow. And for the most part have very positive experiences up until this point is super cool.”

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