Texas Breckyn Hager (44) looks for more cheers from the stands during the game against UTEP at Royal-Memorial Stadium, Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

Kirk Bohls

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Bohls: Wild-haired, fiery Breckyn Hager loves to hit — just ask his teammates

Posted September 12th, 2016

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Story highlights
  • Hager was only a two-star recruit out of Westlake but Charlie Strong loved his emotional, fiery play since he saw him play Temple.
  • As one of four sons of Texas All-American Britt Hager, Breckyn wants to play his dad's school record of 499 tackles. He's got 26.
  • Hager's Longhorn teammates have a lot of nicknames for the sophomore defensive end but mostly try to just stay clear.

Breckyn Hager can still remember the play.

The guy he hit most likely cannot.

The quarterback was rolling out wide on an option play. Hager took dead aim, launched himself and “I took him out. He was out.”

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This was in the second grade, on his Mighty Might football team. Even back then, Hager was already a defensive menace.

Not much has changed with the way the rambunctious, borderline maniacal Texas sophomore from Westlake plays the game. Charlie Strong fell in love with the two-star recruit on the night he saw Hager, then a senior at Westlake, de-cleat Temple quarterback Chad President on a fourth-and-3 play. Never mind that only Strong and Baylor’s Art Briles offered him scholarships.

Bottom line, Hager plays like his shaggy, shoulder-length blonde hair is on fire.

“Every time he comes off the field, with his long hair, he looks like he came back from war,” Longhorns safety Jason Hall said.

That’s an apt description for the defensive end who doesn’t just delight in delivering crowd-stirring hits, but lives for them. Hager is a hitting machine who goes about it so instinctively and so unapologetically.

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Just like his dad, who knows something about hitting.

Breckyn may not be able to grow facial hair like his father. He can’t compete with Britt Hager’s long locks or the former Longhorn star’s furry mustache. But he’s built in his dad’s image, playing like the rugged All-American linebacker who loved contact to the extent he set the school record for career tackles with 499 stops.

“He’s always been pretty aggressive,” said Britt, who had three straight 100-plus-tackle seasons at Texas and played nine years in the NFL. “I like how he brings his enthusiasm and intensity. He’s always played like that.”

September 10, 2016 - Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson (46) and defensive end Breckyn Hager (44) bring down UTEP running back Aaron Jones (29) during the second quarter of action held at Royal-Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016. RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
September 10, 2016 – Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson (46) and defensive end Breckyn Hager (44) bring down UTEP running back Aaron Jones (29) during the second quarter of action held at Royal-Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016. RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Even as a one-time running back/nose tackle in Pop Warner. As the youngest of four boys, Breckyn has had to scrap for his place. Britt loves that about him, but also his diverse interests as someone who dabbled in acting on projects during high school and absolutely loves debating politics. Britt, who is part-owner of an Austin company that supplies workers for oil field service companies, isn’t sure what created Breckyn’s rowdy spirit.

“He was born in Denver,” said Britt, who played for the Broncos for a year. “So he was born in altitude. That might have made him different.”

Patrick Vahe has another theory.

“Breckyn’s a really cool dude. I think he has schizophrenia,” the offensive guard said. “He’s really cool off the field, a really chill guy. As soon as I see Breckyn hit the field, that boy has a mean look the whole entire time.”

Freshman linebacker Breckyn Hager tries to get penatration during the 2016 University of Texas Orange-White Game April 16. 04/16/16 Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Freshman linebacker Breckyn Hager tries to get penatration during the 2016 University of Texas Orange-White Game April 16. 04/16/16 Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Hager has set a goal to break his father’s tackle records, but admitted Monday the game would “have to bring back the wishbone” for that to be possible. He has 26 tackles and always has to worry about targeting penalties which, he says, are “just favoring the offense. They’re trying to kill football.”

Last Saturday, in his first career start, Hager had his best game as a Longhorn. He led the team with eight tackles and recorded his first career sack. But he’s hardly been a well-kept secret, especially among his teammates who call him “Kamikaze.”

That’s because Hager’s got only one speed, one style and a lightning first step that, combined with his tenacity, should make him a terrific pass rusher going forward.

“He’s a mad man,” linebacker Malik Jefferson said. “Like someone from the 1960s.”

Echoed quarterback Shane Buechele, “He’s a monster.”

To a man, Hager’s teammates stand in awe of him. And if they can, they stand clear of him. By a wide berth.

Hager says he routinely gets in trouble and got yelled at by the entire coaching staff two weeks ago when he leveled running back D’Onta Foreman in practice. Many of the offensive players get on him for being so rough, and wide receiver Jerrod Heard said, “I have to tell Breckyn sometimes that we play on the same team.”

And Heard’s glad he does. At least on Saturdays.

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