The golden promise: Hager’s quest for a Big 12 title

Alex Briseño

Senior defensive end Breckyn Hager will run onto the field for the final home opener of his Longhorn career Saturday. A white “C” will be stitched onto his burnt orange jersey, signifying him as one of the team captains, but it will likely be draped over by his blonde, free-flowing hair. 

The golden locks, which have nearly become a trademark for the defensive end, now drop past his shoulders –– he hates it. 

But cutting it isn’t an option. During Big 12 Media Days, Hager said the situation with his hair was written a long time ago, three years to be exact. Hager made a deal with fifth year senior tight end Andrew Beck, who he had previously played with at Austin Westlake High School, that neither of them will cut their hair until Texas wins a Big 12 conference title. 

“I wanted something tangible like it would always remind to go after such a simple goal that i thought at the time,” Hager said during Big 12 Media Days. “Now I’m realizing, wait, it’s not that simple. To be able to see it in my hair, I’m like, alright, it’s getting longer, oh my goodness. Oh my god, how am I going to wear it? … It’s just long hair — and I do care. And I hate it.”

“Do you know how many tears have soaked in this after losses?” Hager said. 

Beck, who was voted to be a team captain for the second consecutive season, won’t have any trouble displaying the “C” on his jersey, though. He’s cut his hair since the promise, multiple times. 

“The man broke the promise — it was like a week later,” Hager said. “ I was like, “Dude, did you just forget?’”

As Hager competes for the best hair on the team, he is also being considered as one of the vocal leaders of this team. 

He will play a large role in bringing the defense back to the level it performed at last year, which is a huge leap from where he was four years ago when he didn’t have an offer from Texas late in the recruiting process. 

“If Texas didn’t offer, I was going to go to Baylor,” Hager said. 

Then he got a call from former head coach Charlie Strong. 

“It was surreal,” Hager said. “I couldn’t believe anything he was saying. He told me not to tell anyone. I didn’t tell anyone because he didn’t want hype. That just made me think it wasn’t real, like why can’t I tell people?”

For Hager, the offer wasn’t just an opportunity to play in his hometown, it was a chance to follow in the footsteps of his father, Britt Hager. Britt, who was an All-American linebacker at Texas from 1985–1988, currently holds the records for most tackles in a season (195) and in his career (499). 

Breckyn has four brothers who also played football, but none of them wore a burnt orange jersey. It was a no brainer. 

“If you’re a kid from Westlake playing ball, and then you have your father’s legacy here, and you have three older brothers who didn’t come here, it’s the only thing you think about in terms of where you want to go to school,” Hager said. 

Hager arrived at Texas as a linebacker. Midway through his junior year, he still wasn’t receiving an incredible amount playing time and he wanted to get reps at defensive end. 

“The biggest thing was one, when we first got here he was not heavy enough to play against an offensive tackle,” head coach Tom Herman said. “He wasn’t strong enough and he would go three plays and needed to take himself out of the game. His stamina was awful.”

Then, Texas decided to try the 6-foot-3-inch, 255-pound linebacker at defensive end against then-No. 11 Oklahoma State on Oct. 21. 

Hager finished with three solo tackles, including two sacks, and he never looked back. 

“Weeks after weeks of showing that I can destroy the first team offense, they (coaching staff) asked, ‘Why can’t he go out there and destroy the other team’s offense?’” Hager said. “Once they saw that, I guess something clicked. And thanks God it did, because I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

Aside from being named a team captain, Hager serves as one of Texas’ starting defensive ends and will play a vital role for a Texas team trying to win the Big 12 title for the first time since 2009. 

As for the hair, Hager already has a plan set in place if they win the Big 12. He wants sophomore quarterback, and his current roommate, Sam Ehlinger, to chop off his hair on the podium after the trophy ceremony. 

But Hager only has one more shot at a conference title, and while he is continuing to write his story, he knows he is running out of time. 

“Every time I hear the UT Tower ding, my time’s running out,” Hager said last spring. “So I’ve got to bring it here, I’ve got to bring it with everything I’ve got, whether that’s in the weight room, practice, film room, I don’t care what it all is, I’m leaving it out there.”