Alumni: Tackling Machine, Hager Wraps Up Impressive Career

Justin Hager would never tell you about the time he made 20 tackles against top-ranked Mount Union in the Division 3 football playoffs. He won't offer up the fact that the linebacker - Liberty League's Defensive Player of the Year - holds the single season tackling record for the Statesmen (134), four years after he set the record for Salamanca High School (164).

No, Hager, who just finished his senior season on Hobart's gridiron by punishing opposing offenses with 288 career tackles - good for second all-time at the school - won't tell you about his ECAC All Star, All Liberty League, or D3football.com All-East First Team or Second Team All-American selections as he heads into his final lacrosse season.

"He never even called and told us about his Defensive Player of the Year," said his proud mother, Karen Hager, leaning over a small pile of accolades set on the dining room table. It was just a small part from an entire room full of well deserved trophies and remembrances. "Another lacrosse parent had to call and tell us about his lacrosse captaincy."

Either that, or Hager will call fashionably late, after the news of his latest accomplishment is made public, as if it's no big deal.

That's just typical of the 2009 recipient of the Mike Roberti Memorial award for Character and Sportsmanship. Don't try to pry that information from the man who is the only Hobart athlete ever to record more than 20 stops in a game - twice.

He would never tell you himself, but you could hardly blame him. You see, nothing was ever a certainty for Hager, whose birthday comes exactly one day after the football enrollment cutoff date in Salamanca - effectively putting him one full year behind all his teammates from his pee wee days.

Add to that his struggle with grades as he enrolled at Hobart College in Geneva, New York, originally recruited for lacrosse. Hager pushed himself through summer school after his senior year at Salamanca, while the rest of his friends and teammates went on summer vacations and to graduation parties.

"Looking back, I'm glad I did it," admitted Hager while on the way to a job interview to secure the next step in his legacy. Speaking to Hager, it's easy to get the impression that he knows everything happens for a specific reason, as part of an overall design.