Junior defensive end Breckyn Hager is a player who speaks from the heart and doesn’t hold much back.
Hager made a rare appearance in front of the media following Texas’ 13-10 overtime loss on Saturday to then-No. 10 Oklahoma State. He had just played one of the best games of his Longhorn career, posting a career-high two sacks and tallying three total tackles.
But, of course, none of that mattered to Hager after the game. The passion in his voice and the directness of his words could be felt. Hager wants just as much as anyone for the Longhorns to turn things around.
“It’s incredibly painful,” Hager said. “But there’s also positives, and it’s incredibly hard to say that and think about that. As an upperclassman, we’re turning this around. We’re over it. We’re gonna go get to work, and we’re gonna be the best we can be.”
Hager described the upperclassmen as a “special” group, despite the fact that they have experienced some of the most difficult years in program history.
One of Hager’s fellow upperclassmen is junior linebacker Malik Jefferson, who was consoled on the field by Hager in the wake of Texas’ loss on Saturday. After the game, Jefferson lauded Hager’s performance against the Cowboys.
“He played really well,” Jefferson said. “Getting after the quarterback and causing disruption was incredible for us, especially with a three-man rush.”
Hager, an Austin Westlake High School product, has seen somewhat of a reduced role with the Longhorns this season, transitioning into primarily a pass-rush specialist and often rotating in for a special third-down package.
When asked after Tuesday’s practice about his more limited role this season, Hager once again spoke from the heart.
“It’s the hardest thing I’ve been through,” Hager said.
At his weekly press conference on Monday, head coach Tom Herman was also asked about Hager. Herman — who is as honest as they come when evaluating players’ performances and the reasoning behind their amount of playing time — offered praise for Hager.
“Breckyn, what a great story that has been,” Herman said. “A guy that, quite frankly, was a tweener. It’s like, what is he — is he a linebacker, is he a defensive end, is he an outside linebacker, is he an inside linebacker? The one thing he does is gives you effort.”
Saturday’s game in Waco against Baylor will be a special one for Hager and his family.
Hager’s older brother, Bryce, played linebacker at Baylor from 2011–14. Bryce is currently playing in the NFL for the Los Angeles Rams. Their father, Britt, was an All-American linebacker at Texas and played for the Longhorns from 1985–88. Britt also played in the NFL, totaling nine seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, Denver Broncos and St. Louis Rams.
Naturally, Hager said there will be some trash-talking going on this week with his brother.
“I’m actually gonna see (Bryce) Thursday, so it’s going on on Thursday,” Hager said. “He’s gonna be at the game, so it’s gonna be really exciting.”
But Hager said that the friendly banter is meaningless at the end of the day. He just wants to win.
“I don’t really care because it’s not about that,” Hager said. “It’s about us (the team), and (Bryce) knows that deep down.”