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Penn State Football: DaeSean Hamilton's Route to the NFL

by on February 01, 2018 9:45 PM

DaeSean Hamilton was in Mobile, Alabama, last Friday night, on his way to dinner on the eve of his second all-star game in eight days.

As Hamilton made a beeline through the upper lobby of the Renaissance Riverview Plaza, the headquarters of the Senior Bowl just a block west from the riverfront, he strolled past a big screen TV.

He paid it no mind. His route had him going directly to the dinner. No time for distractions.

The television's dial had been stuck on the NFL Network all week. And why not? The NFL was why everyone was in town, Hamilton included.

"Players to watch at tomorrow's Senior Bowl," said the voice on television, "include DaeSean Hamilton."

As Hamilton's name and statistics flashed on the screen via a graphic, clips of a wide receiver making waste of a cornerback on the practice field popped up. The receiver wore a white Penn State helmet with a blue stripe, and an orange No. 5 on a white jersey.

"Hey, DaeSean," someone said to him. "Did you happen see the TV when you walked by? Guess who they said was a player to watch tomorrow?"

"No, I didn't," Hamilton answered.

"I don't know," he added. "Maybe some other guy."

Someone told him: "It was you."

"Me? Ahhhhh," he shook his head. "It's not going to help me tomorrow. It's going to rain."

DaeSean Hamilton hasn't lost his focus. And now, more than ever, he is as right as rain.

GOING MOBILE

Two weeks ago, Hamilton was playing 500 miles to the southeast, across the Gulf of Mexico. He was in St. Petersburg, Florida, to appear in the East-West Shrine Game, where he caught two passes — from Ohio State's J.T. Barrett, of all people — for 42 yards.

More important, though, in the week leading up to that game Penn State's all-time leading receiver had caught the eye of several NFL scouts and insiders.

The same thing happened again the next week during open practices for the Senior Bowl. Which is why Hamilton happened to be Mobile.

Hamilton is on a mission to extend his football career in the NFL after leaving Penn State in December with two different bachelor's degrees — one in advertising/public relations, the second in telecommunications — as well as the No. 1 spot on the Nittany Lions' career reception list (214) and an astounding consistently 51 starts in 53 games played from 2014-2017.

And he had finished with a bang in the Fiesta Bowl, leading Penn State over Wisconsin, 35-28, with five catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns, of 48 and 24 yards.

Which helped earn him a spot in the Shrine game and then landed him in the biggest pre-draft event this side of the Combine, the Senior Bowl. The NFL and the writers and draftniks that cover the postseason bowl circuit have loved him.

"DaeSean continues his reign of terror in day 3 of Senior Bowl practice." — Jonathan Valencia, Breaking Football

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"DaeSean Hamilton gets in and out of his breaks with ease. Very fluid in his movements and is making money at the Senior Bowl." — Bruce Matson, Dallas Cowboys correspondent for @DLFootball

"Penn State WR DaeSean Hamilton has been open all day." — Marcus Mosher, Bleacher Report

After a Penn State career with both highs and lows, Hamilton has learned to control the controllables. He did it in St. Petersburg, then again in Mobile.

A BIT OF JOSHING

"At the beginning of the season, I really wanted to go to the Senior Bowl more than any other game," Hamilton said. But he was passed over during the early invites. Then, a day or two before the East-West game, the invitation came to come to Mobile the next week.

So Hamilton reached out to his dad, his agent and — most especially — Josh Gattis, his former wide receivers coach at Penn State, who was in the midst of a transition of his own, after accepting a job as co-offensive coordinator at Alabama.

Both player and coach had left Penn State. But the Penn State part of them, and their connection, remained.

"Coach Gattis and I have been talking almost every day the past two weeks," Hamilton said. "When it came time for me to decide if I wanted to come to the Senior Bowl, I asked him what he thought I should do. Because if I didn't come, I would have gone back and trained. Coming to the Senior Bowl meant I would have missed two weeks of training compared to everyone else.

"Josh, my dad and my agent agreed that I'm going to make more of my money coming in and playing football. I could rely on what I know best rather than waiting all the way into the beginning of March for a 40-yard dash to bump me up a few rounds."

What Hammy knows best. That would be both the art and the science of being a seasoned and savvy wide receiver. Route-running, creating separation, putting DB's on their heels.

"Every single practice you have, you have to be ready to come out and have your best day," he shared. "You have hundreds of scouts out there, plus NFL head coaches, team execs, owners. You have to be really be on your 'A' game at all times."

Hamilton brought it, too. For two weeks, his confidence grew daily. At Penn State he may have averaged four catches a game for 53 games, boosting his per-catch average annually from 11 yards as a freshman in 2014 to 12.9 to 14.9 to 16.2 yards as a senior, scoring eight touchdowns in final nine games as a collegian. He got better and better.

SOME KIDDING

It wasn't until he hit the two open weeks of practices in St. Pete and then Mobile that DaeSean Hamilton became a household name.

For example: In that hotel lobby last Friday evening a kid in a Notre Dame sweatshirt asked Hamilton for his autograph.

"Do you even know who I am?" asked Hamilton, interrogating the tween.

"Yeah," the kid replied, "you're DaeSean Hamilton."

Weeks like those have done wonders for Hamilton's confidence.

"Yeah, honestly," he said. "When I come out and do well in one-on-one sessions and team periods, I build off of that momentum. I did pretty well last week. The only negative thing is that you're going out here and playing with new quarterbacks. I wasn't able to get adjusted as some of the other guys, as far as where they are placing the ball or how hard they're throwing the ball. It's a bit of a disadvantage, but the scouts don't care about that.

"That's really why I wanted to come here, so I'd get the chance to do stuff like this. Plus, I knew if I came to the Senior Bowl I would have a chance to shine at something like this, where I could go out and compete and run routes and get open. The major thing they're worried about for wide receivers is getting separation, especially in a pro setting. That's an area where I knew I could thrive, since that's all I did with Coach Gattis and in drills at school."

MORE ON GATTIS

Hamilton was quick to give major props to Gattis, his mentor the past four years at Penn State (he red-shirted due to a wrist injury as a true freshman).

"Alabama is a great move for Coach Gattis," Hamilton said. "It's a chance to win a national championship, although it's not like he didn't have that chance at Penn State. I know he wanted bigger things. I know he wanted to be an offensive coordinator and then what every coach wants to be, a head coach, then probably head to the NFL. Alabama is literally the place to go for that. That's why a lot of kids go to Alabama, as a way to the NFL. It's the same thing with coaches and under Nick Saban it's a revolving door, so Josh now has his foot in the door at the right place.

"Look at what he did with Chris (Godwin) and I, and now with Juwan (Johnson) and DeAndre (Thompkins). But when guys like us end up have successful careers and go into the NFL, or are making an impact at Penn State for the next few years, that has to go back to Coach Gattis and the fundamentals he taught us and how the work he put us through. It's about the fundamentals, the details, and basically all the little things. It comes down to what Coach Gattis was able to produce with us. He did all the right things."

Those right things rubbed off on Hamilton in a way that the NFL scouts can appreciate.

"They like my route-running and my hands," he said. "They might question my hands after a couple of drops in practice the past two weeks, but they watch my film they saw that I only had two or three drops all season. Consistency, route-running and hands — those are the things they like. The biggest question mark obviously is the speed. But that's something they can watch game film on as well."

Hamilton, a strong student who took a full course load in the classroom last fall so he could walk on graduation day in the BJC with a completed and fully-paid for second degree in hand, aced all his meetings with NFL brass over the past two weeks.

"Interviews are kind of easy," he said. "You go in there and be yourself, and answer questions honestly. If they want to talk football, I can talk football for days. You have to be yourself and know football."

The bottom-line is the bottom-line: His stock has risen.

"Originally, I was like a Day 3 to an undrafted guy," he said. "But after these two weeks, I could be late Day 2 or early Day 3. All that's really left now is the 40 (at the Combine), then I need to have a good pro day back at Penn State."

FAST TIMES

Not that Hamilton is on cruise control any time soon. He's now back in full-bore training mode, then will head to Indianapolis in four weeks for the NFL Combine.

"No, no, I'm slowing down," he protested. "Somebody is always going to be in my ear telling me there's something that I didn't do. Like this week, I had a few drops and I need to work on that. Or they doubt my speed, so I have to play a lot faster. There's always going to be something."

Like improving and then proving his speed.

"What is your 40 time?" he was asked after that dinner last Friday.

He paused a beat, stared at the questioner and smiled:

"Fast enough."

He's probably right. After all, by this point, there should be no more doubting DaeSean.



Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for StateCollege.com since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PSUPoorman. His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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