After a successful junior year of high school football playing for the Little Lions of State College Area High School in State College, Pennsylvania, Pete Haffner was expecting college football offers to start rolling in.
Although he was being noticed by Patriot and Ivy League schools, offers were not forthcoming.
Former State College teammate and freshman defensive back for Lehigh, John Seighman emphasized to the coaching staff that they should take a closer look into Haffner as he would make an immediate impact on the team.
As the recruiting process was coming to an end for Haffner, a Lehigh recruit de-commited, which opened up a spot on the team. Haffner filled the opening, received a partial scholarship and then began his journey as a Mountain Hawk.
Haffner has been a key linebacker for Lehigh since he stepped onto campus four years ago.
In 2019, Haffner was named second-team All-Patriot League as well as being named to the All-Academic team.
Haffner’s preparation enables him to stay focused on the football field and in the classroom.
“Prioritizing school and football and trying my best has allowed me to balance both,” Haffner said. “I try to leave no stone unturned. The preparation I put in for a football game is what I put into the classroom.”
With the Patriot League granting fall sports an extra year of eligibility, Haffner jumped on the opportunity to continue his academic and athletic career at Lehigh.
“The biggest reason as to why I wanted to come back for a fifth year were my teammates,” Haffner said. “The past couple years I have had a great experience at Lehigh because of them, and felt if I didn’t come back or transferred I would be letting them down. After the past four years, I want to finish out my football career with them.”
Haffner plans on using his fifth year of eligibility to further his academic career by earning his Master’s degree in accounting. He’s excited for the challenge of balancing finance and accounting courses along with playing football. Haffner thinks taking a heavy course load while playing his final season will help him grow and make him a more well-rounded individual.
Head coach Tom Gilmore said Haffner coming back for a fifth year will continue to bolster the team.
“He is a tremendous example of someone who truly gets the most out of his ability,” Gilmore said. “That example that he sets for the rest of the team has an even bigger impact for a younger team like we have.”
Junior offensive lineman Justin Gurth, described Haffner as someone who leads by example, an excellent performer in the classroom and an energetic guy on the field.
“When it’s third down, you want Pete Haffner in the game because he is going to make the stop,” Gurth said. “Whether it’s breaking up a pass, sacking the quarterback or making the goal-line stand, he’s the guy you want on third down to make that play.”
The 2021 spring season was not what the Mountain Hawks had hoped for. Due to game cancellations related to COVID-19, the team finished the season 0-3. However, the team looks to work hard in the off-season to prove people wrong.
“Next season is going to be a grind,” Gurth said. “Nothing is handed to you. A big part of it will be from our off-season training. Lifting, running, speed, explosion. We’re a young team and with Pete (Haffner) having so much experience [it]will help the team take a huge step getting the young guys on the right page learning and feeding off of his energy.”
Although the Mountain Hawks played hard and got better, Haffner wants the team to go into the fall with a win-now mindset.
“I think our defense is going to grow and be special this fall,” Haffner said. “We should be able to compete for a Patriot League Championship.”