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Penn State Football: Hamilton Back And Ready To Finish What He Started

by on August 30, 2017 9:45 PM

Thousands of miles from State College, DaeSean Hamilton sat down in front of reporters with headphones wrapped around his neck and a smile across his face.

Penn State had just won the first game of the James Franklin era thanks in no small part to Hamilton's standout 11 catch, 165 yard debut. It may have been in Ireland, but the win counted all the same.

Hamilton's smile is probably the first thing you notice about him, it's wide and infectious. You just feel better seeing it.

And for the 2014 season it stayed. Hamilton was one of the best in the nation when it came to catching passes. He was all over the field, dependable and hardly ever wrong. It made him beloved, it made DaeSean turn into BaeSean online. It made fans appreciate consistency. It made them appreciate the always reliable No.5.

But in 2015 that smile slowly faded. The magic of 2014 didn't really stick. He had fewer than five receptions in eight different games. There were flashes, but that old DeaSean never fully made his way back to his breakout season form.

The rut continued in 2016, punctuated by a dropped pass late in Penn State's loss to Pitt. After the game Hamilton made his way to the interview room, something he could have refused to do, and answered questions about that play with tears in his eyes. There was no pretending it didn't happen, and he wasn't going to shy away from the music, he was honest with every answer. He dropped it.

For much of the season it lingered on his mind. The rest of the season he would catch no more than three passes in a single game. Sometimes they were long passes, sometimes just simple routes. In either case 2014 was a thing of the past, a memory of what may have been, but what seemed to be lost.

"The Pitt drop stuck in my mind a bit too long," Hamilton said. "Once I was able to get past that, things started clicking in the end of the season and the Big Ten Championship game. And I learned that it's basically how anyone's career or college football career goes, there's going to be ups and downs and it's all about how you bounce back. It took me a while, you get over it and play the next game and do the things that you're supposed to do. On me, really it weighed on me weeks after that game because I would have drops after that in other games and kind of think back to "what am I doing wrong?" and it wasn't until the end of the year when we were really rolling on teams that I was able [let it go]." 

But then the Big Ten Championship was dead ahead, and Hamilton wasn't going to let that moment slip by him. An eight catch and 118 yard night helped propel Penn State to a Big Ten Title. The first play of the fourth quarter Hamilton caught his second long pass in as many plays, he jumped to his feet and the TV broadcast zoomed in on his face.

The smile was back. So was the fun.

"Especially, after the season I was having last year, in the Big Ten Championship game I realized that was a lot of fun and to be able to go back and play football like had played earlier in my career," Hamilton said. "I realized that was what I missed. I wasn't that I lost it or never had it, or anything like that, I just had to find it again."

And it stayed. This summer Hamilton has reminded coaches what he was capable of not long ago. More importantly though Hamilton reminded himself what he was capable of.

All in all it leads up to the final season of his collegiate career, one that has been nothing short of a roller coaster. 

Maybe that's why Hamilton is so likable, because it's easy to relate to him. Saquon Barkley is by anyone's best measure a fantastic person, but everything he does seems impossible. You can't related to lightning fast 40-times, you can't hurdle over people or do things that a Top 3 NFL draft choice can.

But Hamilton, you can see yourself in him. Ups and downs, successes and failures. Barkley has those of his own, but they're masked by his otherworldly talents. It makes Hamilton a reminder of why everyone likes sports so much, going from nothing into something and battling back to where you once were and staying there. He's human, just like the rest of us.

What the 2017 season has in store for the 6-foot-1 receiver from Virginia remains to be seen, but it'll be hard not to root for a good ending to the story. Because just 19 catches shy of Penn State's all-time receptions record, it would be hard to argue anyone has fought for it more than him.

"I was at that point I was really young, my first college football game," Hamilton said looking back.

"It was a pretty good game for us as a team and myself as well. Looking back on that I've learned so much since then, and even having a great game in my first college career game I've played a lot better games than that and I've learned so much as a college football player, looking back on that it does seem like forever and I really like how my career has gone with all the ups and down, trials and tribulations, but I've enjoyed the ride so far."

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