By: Thomas Frank Carr
Flashy, brash, attention-seekers.
That is the general description of wide receivers on a football field. That behavior is understandable, too. Up to six receivers can rotate into any game. It pays to stand out.
That’s one of the few reasons that DaeSean Hamilton is an anomaly.
“I’m quiet around people that I don’t really know, but when I’m around my friends I’ll open up and let loose. But yeah, behind the scenes, kind of a low key type person is the way that I’d describe myself,” Hamilton said of himself during Penn State’s annual media day.
Even his hair style seems to be entirely his own. A high tight fade on the sides gives way to a short bed of hair, sprouting small dreadlocks that alternately rise and flop sideways around his head. Hamilton stares impassively through stylish, thick-rimmed Ray-Ban spectacles, answering questions. It’s not that he’s huffy or haughty; he answers each question politely and patiently with a slight Virginia drawl. The redshirt senior seems to simply exist in a constant state of ‘chill.’
“He’s a very good leader, but in terms of vocal- he’s only going to speak when he has to. He normally keeps to himself and leads by his actions,” says senior tight end Mike Gesicki.
Head Coach James Franklin sees the veteran wide-out’s leadership in his attention to detail and how he sets a good example for the younger players at his position,
“How to create separation in your route running, how to get off of press coverage with your releases, how to set up routes, you know, step and nod, teasing shoulders, things you can do to create bigger windows for the quarterback and create YAC (yards after catch) yards.
I think Hamilton is having as good of a camp with all of those thing that I’ve seen before. There are bigger guys, there are stronger guys, there are faster guys, but he is as polished and as productive as I’ve been around in a camp setting. I think he’s going to have a big year for us.”
He won’t even need that big of a year to land himself in the record books. It may surprise you to know that the Virginia native only needs 18 catches to pass Deon Butler for the all-time mark in Penn State history. Hamilton acknowledged the milestone in a similar, low-key, team-first way,
“It means a lot. It’s a testament to not just myself, but the other fifth year seniors and the fourth year seniors have had to go through for us get to success and the individual successes we’ve been able to achieve. I’m excited for it, but it’s not the main goal on my mind.”
The fifth-year senior is much the same away from the football field. During a summer internship with the State College Spikes, a short-season, Single-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team, Hamilton could be seen manning cameras beside the dugout or in the control room, on the replay equipment.
“He was just another staff member, he fit right in. Unless you know who he was, you just thought he was another intern. He showed up, worked hard, and was very respectful to everyone. The only time he talked about football was when someone asked him about it and he never talked about himself,” said Director of In-Game Entertainment, Ben Love. Love also said that he had a talent for the job,
“By the end of the first game he ran camera, you would thought he ran camera for years. He was trying and doing stuff that some of camera operators that have been around for years couldn’t do.”
The Fredericksburg, VA, native found out about the internship from former roommate and fellow receiver Greg Garrity, who interned with the Spikes the previous year. The three-time Academic All-Big 10 award winner needed an internship for his second degree that he’ll earn while at Penn State (telecommunications), so it was a perfect fit. It’s also something that’s always interested him.
“I’ve always wanted to do something either behind the scenes, whether it be in-game production or in front of the camera I was with the in-game announcers and in the TV production room for every single game that I worked at. It really helped a lot in the experience aspect,” Hamilton said.
DaeSean Hamilton is the lion who doesn’t roar. It should come as no surprise that Hamilton is flying under the radar going into his redshirt senior year at Penn State.
Or should it?
After all it was only three years ago that Hamilton was the featured target in the passing attack for former quarterback Christian Hackenberg. In 2014, Hamilton seemed destined to replace superstar wide receiver Allen Robinson who has gone on to Pro Bowl accolades in the NFL for the Jacksonville Jaguars. “Ham,” as he’s called by his teammates, broke freshman receiving records at Penn State on his way to an 82 catch, 899 yard receiving season. His efforts landed him on the All-Big 10 second team as voted by the media and was an honorable mention by the coaches.
Since then his rise has not been meteoric. The whole offense struggled in 2015 under former coordinator John Donovan, which led to his eventual firing. Hamilton gathered in just over half of the caches he did as a freshman and saw his yardage output dwindle.
This past season the Nittany Lions offense took off under new offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead. A proliferation of young, talented receivers, led by Chris Godwin, spread the ball around. Hamilton had his lowest output of yardage and catches in his career at Penn State. As you might guess, it doesn’t bother Hamilton that he might been as a dark-horse candidate to lead the receiving corps in 2017,
“I don’t really care. Our offense is full of people who can make plays with the ball in their hands. It’s not really about who gets the ball more, I just go out and do my role every single game.”
Don’t be fooled though, he cares deeply. His cool façade was most famously broken in the Nittany Lions 42-39 loss to Pitt last year.
The Nittany Lions were driving deep in Pitt territory late in the 4th quarter when Hamilton dropped a wide-open pass along the sideline that would have set up the Nittany Lions in the Pitt red zone. Despite the fact that Penn State had several chances to win the game after that play, Hamilton publically blamed himself for the loss. It’s a notion that his teammates roundly dismissed after the game.
Hamilton will also speak when he has to, as the team found out last year.
“I remember when he spoke at halftime in the Ohio State game. That was the first time that any one had ever heard Ham speak before, during or after, a game (in a leadership way). At halftime he saw the direction it was going and the potential that we had in the 2nd half. He got up and felt it was the right time for him to say something,” Gesicki recalled.
The Nittany Lions scored 17 points in the 4nd quarter of their now famous game vs Ohio State leading to the eventual upset of the 2nd ranked team in the nation. It was a game that signaled the Nittany Lions return to national prominence. A moment that DaeSean Hamilton had a hand in, even if he didn’t have the most receiving yards or catches in the game.
As for the record, the sooner he gets it, the better. When asked jokingly if he’d like to get 18 passes in his first game vs Akron on September 2nd,
“If that’s possible, then yeah,” he said laughing. “Then it’s already out of the way.”