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Penn State Football: Hamilton A Star In Making After Delayed Start To Career

by on September 18, 2014 4:00 PM

Somehow when DaeSean Hamilton takes his helmet off, his hair is still pointed skyward like the perfect hair day that couldn't be ruined.

His upwardly inclined follicles, his large round rimmed glasses and an infectious smile make him a unique personality on the Nittany Lion roster.

Most importantly for Penn State though, his stats are giving the Nittany Lions a viable threat in a passing attack that needs to replace NFL bound Allen Robinson this season. That early production -- which has included two receiving performances of over 100 yards -- is in large part due to all the offseason work Hamilton and quarterback Christian Hackneberg put in together.

"I think going out there and getting extra work, it built the chemistry that we have now, with me and Geno and some of the other receivers," Hamilton said. "We'll go out there with Hack every morning and throw. But it just built chemistry. And then the timing; the timing is really important on offense, and I learned that he likes to put the ball in certain spots and he expects me to be in those spots by the time he finishes his reads and things like that."

Whatever it took for Hamilton and Hackenberg to get on the same page seems to be paying off already. Hamilton has pulled down 26 receptions in just three games. In 2013 only two receivers broke the 26 reception mark all year with Brandon Felder hauling in 28 and Allen Robinson making a whopping 97 catches. In 2014 Hackenberg has already targeted Geno Lewis for 20 receptions and tight end Jesse James for 10 catches in addition to Hamilton's 26.

"We would do things like signal, like signal the routes of the plays we would do. We just go out there can connect on them and make sure we know the playbook even when it's the off‑season," Hamilton said of the summer "Other times, we would just do downs and situations, red zone throws, things like that."

For Hamilton the road to getting on to the field has been a long one. A redshirt freshman, Hamilton never played a down for Penn State last year despite being a highly regarded talent. A broken wrist sidelined him after injuring it late in his high school career. Hamilton didn't even begin catching passes again until this March -- only months away from the start of the season.

"Being out during spring ball, I was basically inactive until about two days before the spring game, and basically, I just took mental reps, learned the playbook as much as all the other guys on the team were learning the playbook," Hamilton said. "I just tried to learn as much mentally without implementing the physical part because I was not able to actually practice yet. And then now, physically, I feel great. I feel like I finally got my football legs back. UCF, I was just not getting it back. Just getting back in the swing of things from being out for a whole year, I'm finally back and healthy again."

Luckily for Hamilton he isn't the only Nittany Lion to have wrist issues. Tight end Kyle Carter and running back Zach Zwinak both dealt with similar ailments. After surgery in July of 2013 he went to both Carter and Zwinak for advice.

"They found a broken bone in there and they realized that I needed surgery right away, and I got it in July," Hamilton said. "The whole process, it was hard, because I didn't like watching from the sidelines.  I actually wanted to contribute for my team, things like that."

"Kyle, he told me like the procedure that he went through, and he told me basically the timetable on what maybe we could possibly go through and things like that. Unfortunately mine went a little longer than his did. At the same time it was him and Zach Zwinak, we both had wrist injuries in the past, and they just told me things like what to expect and how to overcome it."

Hamilton will continue to grow as a player and should continue to be on the same page as Hackenberg. Figuring out how far Hamilton might go is anyone's guess. But if Hamilton felt like he didn't have his "football legs" back for the UCF game, where he caught 11 passes for 165 yards, then maybe the sky really is the limit.

"When we went back to the film, there was a lot of missed plays, and there was a lot of plays where I could have either gone for about 30 more yards or broken a few more tackles and gotten basically some more first downs and things like that," Hamilton said with a smile.

Well ok then.

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