I never thought it would happen.

I never thought that the talented teen from Virginia would follow through on his verbal commitment.

I never thought that Christian Hackenberg would actually become a Penn State Nittany Lion.

Apparently, I was wrong.

Because all signs indicate that Hackenberg will sign his National Letter of Intent on Wednesday with PSU.

His Twitter home page says it all -- "Nittany Lion for life."

Hackenberg's signing will instantly become the biggest recruiting coup in Bill O'Brien's short tenure at Happy Valley. He is ranked the No. 2 quarterback in the 2013 college football recruiting class by Scout.com. Rivals.com rates him No. 2 nationally among pro-style QBs. Both recruiting services rate him a five-star recruit on a five-star scale.

In other words, he's the bluest of blue-chippers.

He verbally committed to O'Brien and the Lions nearly a year ago.

At the time, it made some sense. O'Brien came from the New England Patriots and worked with Tom Brady. That's an attractive lure for a young man who obviously has aspirations of playing quarterback in the NFL. And Penn State, even in the wake of the Sandusky scandal, is still a big-time program in a big-time conference.

Then last summer, the NCAA unexpectedly slammed Penn State with nearly unprecedented sanctions for its lack of action in that same Sandusky scandal -- most notably severe scholarship reductions and a four-year postseason ban.

Suddenly, Penn State didn't appear such an attractive destination anymore.

Not unexpectedly, Hackenberg seemed to waver on his college decision. After the sanctions, he gave Penn State only a lukewarm endorsement, saying he was still committed to the school, but wanted to see how the season played out before signing on the dotted line.

After Penn State started 0-2, it looked like you could kiss Hackenberg goodbye. I figured it was just a matter of time until he announced he was opening up his recruitment again and eventually committed to Alabama or Florida or one of the other powerhouse programs that had offered him a scholarship.

After all, when you can play anywhere in the nation, why would you choose a school that was crippled by scholarship reductions and couldn't play in a bowl?

A decommitment seemed inevitable.

Somehow, however, O'Brien and his senior leaders managed to turn things around at Penn State to finish 8-4. That performance impressed folks all across the nation -- including Hackenberg.

After all, O'Brien had earned national coach of the year honors after transforming an undersized former walk-on with a pop-gun arm (Matt McGloin) into one of the better QBs in the Big Ten. Imagine what O'Brien could do with a strong-armed passer with NFL size (6-foot-4, 205 pounds) and talent?

So, barring a huge surprise, Hackenberg will make his commitment to PSU official on Wednesday.

O'Brien and his staff and his players deserve immense credit for that. Hackenberg is the kind of talent who can help lure other big-time recruits to Happy Valley, despite the sanctions.

It's a huge "get" for the program.

But I never thought it would happen.

Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dis patch. He can be reached at sheiser@yorkdis patch.com.