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Penn State Football: Dotson Ready for Louder and Larger Role

by on February 25, 2020 2:45 PM

Taking the field prior to Penn State's Cotton Bowl appearance receiver Jahan Dotson knew that this was the last time he was going to play alongside teammate KJ Hamler, who had told Dotson of his plans to declare for the NFL Draft.

There is a sadness in departures, something even Hamler made clear as he wept following the game. Nothing about leaving a team behind is fun; nothing about closing a chapter and opening another door is easy. Life is full of leaps and Hamler was about to make the biggest of his.

For Dotson, there is sadness as well, his friend no longer just a few lockers away, a beaming personality no longer lighting up the room every day during team meetings.

But there is also opportunity for Dotson, now the default No. 1 receiver in Penn State's room following the departure of Hamler to the NFL. Tight end Pat Freiermuth might end up with more targets, but Dotson will be called on to shoulder the conventional load of receiver duties. 

That is also a leap, but it's also the kind Dotson has been waiting to make.

"It's the moment you dream about," Dotson said on Saturday. "It's something I've been waiting for ever since I got here, stepping up to be the No. 1 guy in that room. So it's pretty cool to have that burden on my back. We've got young guys, so just taking them under my wing, I've got a little bit of experience so just teaching them the ropes and being with them every day."

To know Jahan Dotson is to know a near polar opposite of his predecessor. Where Hamler was fiery and emotional, Dotson is quiet and reserved. Where Hamler may have impressed you with flash, Dotson is more the mold of former Nittany Lion DaeSean Hamilton, methodical in his routes, efficient with his speed.

It makes for a unique dynamic in the wide receiver room where there is a personality void following Hamler's departure. Dotson is hoping to fill that role as well, but perhaps more with his actions than his words.

"I just try to handle my business whenever business is in front of me," Dotson said. "I don't really like to do all the talking and I just like to see what I have to do and just get it done. I feel like just getting better on and off the field. Just taking a step forward every day and that's just going to benefit me and benefit the guys around me."

Of course being the strong silent type is an equation that has worked well for Penn State in the past. On the defensive side of the ball both former defensive backs Grant Haley and John Reid spent the majority of their careers hardly saying a word. Offensively even Saquon Barkley's white-hot star was accompanied with a healthy dose of humility. 

The key: make your words count.

"The leadership role is gonna be huge for me this year," Dotson added. "So I'm just gonna try to maybe not be more of a vocal leader but lead by example...I feel like my teammates have a lot of respect for me and I have a lot of respect for them. So whenever I try to tell them something to improve they know I have their best interests in mind."

"That whole room is a quiet," Freiermuth laughed when asked about the receivers.

The good news for Dotson is that he's not the only leader on this Penn State team, nor the only one on the offensive side of the ball. It will be a change, though, to see a group that appears to have no Hamler-like personality. There's no saying Penn State needs to have one, but it will be different.

Then again, actions speak louder than words, and Dotson has been waiting a long time to make some noise, even if it's the sound of the stat sheet filling up instead of his voice ringing through the locker room.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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