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2019 NFL Draft: Texas OLB Breckyn Hager

The fiery, unique personality of Hager could combine with his athleticism to give him an NFL career.

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NCAA Football: Texas at Oklahoma Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The identity of Breckyn Hager is not in doubt — the Texas Longhorns edge prospect is brutally honest, sometimes to a fault, incredibly intense, sometimes to a fault, and a physical player with unimpeachable football bloodlines.

Reprimanded multiple times in his college career for comments like saying he wanted to “injured” former Texas Tech quarterback Pat Mahomes in 2016 and noting that Oklahoma “still sucks” on Senior Night last fall, Hager was a lightly-recruited prospect out of Austin Westlake in 2015 as the No. 1,546 prospect nationally, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.

Last season, he returned to the field without missing any games after suffering a dislocated elbow against West Virginia that was supposed to sideline him for six weeks. Hager recorded three tackles and a half sack in that game, despite functionally playing with one arm.

His father is Britt Hager, a Longhorns legend who set a career mark in tackles that might stand the test of time and his older brother, Bryce, plays for the Los Angeles Rams.

Now Hager is preparing for a potential NFL career after missing out on an invite to the combine in February and briefly considered pursing a career in film instead of training for the critical Texas Pro Day in late March. Instead, following a conversation with fellow Westlake alum Nick Foles, Hager got back to work.

During the pro day, Hager posted a vertical leap of nearly 40 inches, showcasing the explosiveness that defined his best moments in burnt orange and white while working out at outside linebacker to prove that he could drop into coverage.

It’s here that some reflection on Hager’s journey at Texas sheds some light on his NFL potential. After head coach Tom Herman and his staff arrived in late 2016, defensive coordinator Todd Orlando opted to try Hager at middle linebacker during the spring. The experiment failed, and Hager eventually emerged as a defensive end in Orlando’s hastily-installed Lightning package, racking up nine tackles for loss and four sacks, mostly during conference play.

As a senior, Hager struggled to hold up and anchor at the point of attack at 260 pounds while playing a 4i role that often utilizes much larger players — sometimes as heavy as 300 pounds. His production fell off to 7.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks, in part due to his elbow injury. And in part due to the fact that he often got close to opposing quarterbacks, but struggled to finish plays, finishing with six quarterback hurries.

The greatest insight into what he could become at the next level came during a breakout sophomore season when Hager played Charlie Strong’s hybrid Fox end position, sometimes with freshman Malcolm Roach at the same position on the opposite side. Unleashed, Hager had his most production season in college, racking up 13.5 tackles for loss and six sacks.

Able to come downhill against the run, blow up smaller blockers like tight ends, or decimate opposing offensive tackles from a wider alignment than he typically played in his last two seasons, Hager was able to translate his trademark intensity into production and utilize his quick first step and ability to bend off the edge.

In drills at Texas Pro Day and in flashes during his Longhorns career, Hager showed the fluidity and understanding to take pass drops. In late March, his hands looked solid, too, though he struggled to finish plays on the field — his only career interception came during his freshman season.

For Hager, making a roster won’t be easy since he’s virtually certain to go undrafted, but his athleticism and intensity could make him an effective player on special teams or practice squad. Playing on the latter, a head coach could count on him to provide a high level of effort on every single play to help hone the active roster players and enough quickness and overall ability to provide credible competition.

If that doesn’t work out, there’s always film or a potential career in another sport that could provide a fitting showcase for his personality and physical nature — professional wrestling.

Whatever happens, Breckyn will always, unapologetically be Breckyn. And the University of Texas is better for that.