Wide Receiver Dan Chisena Earns High Praise Following Surprise Scholarship Announcement
Fans at Saturday’s Blue-White game were fortunate enough to be part of one of college football’s greatest traditions: a surprise scholarship announcement for one of Penn State’s hardest working players.
As the clock wound down in the third quarter, fifth-year senior wideout Dan Chisena blew the lid off of the defense for a 59-yard touchdown. James Franklin made a special announcement over the PA system to the entire Beaver Stadium crowd following the score.
Once upon a time, Chisena was a preferred walk-on for the football team coming out of high school, and a guy that James Franklin was thrilled to have on the roster.
“We really liked Dan on the front-end. Dan won the 100-meter in the state of Pennsylvania his senior year, and we really recruited him pretty hard,” Franklin said after Chisena’s breakout Spring game. “Then the track team stole him from us — in a positive way, I guess. They ended up giving him a scholarship, which was really good for him.”
“The rules are you can’t play football on another sport’s money, so I made the decision to pursue [track],” Chisena said postgame. “Like I said, I had a great time with them. All my best friends are on the track team, but I just wanted to give football another shot. I’m very grateful to have that opportunity.”
Although he put together a solid collegiate track career in his three years under coach John Gondak — including a Big Ten title in the 4×400-meter relay in 2017 and competing in the National Championships in the 4×400-meter and 4×100-meter relay that same season — something kept calling him back to football.
“I’ve been playing football since third grade, and I loved watching Penn State football,” Chisena said. “I felt like when I left, I didn’t really end it the way I wanted to, so I just had the feeling that I wanted to give it another shot.”
When he finally returned, Chisena was welcomed back with open arms by Franklin and his coaching staff. The decision to put him on scholarship was a no-brainer.
“He’s one of the fastest guys on our team. Legitimately, before he left, he ran in the 4.3s,” Franklin said. “He was catching the ball confidently. He’s a guy that we always had bright hopes for, and he had a really good, consistent spring. He’s mature, smart, and strong.”
Surprise scholarship announcements like this always come with a whirlwind of congratulations and ESPN airtime, so now, Chisena’s just doing his best to soak it all in.
“A lot of my best friends and family were texting me congratulations — I really didn’t look at it too much because I was just spending time with the guys,” he said. “I saw I had a bunch of messages, and I was like, ‘Alright, I need to get to those later.'”
However, no one had higher praise for the speedy receiver than his teammates.
“That was awesome. Personally, I think that that’s one of the best things that college football brings,” said quarterback Sean Clifford. “A walk-on guy who works as hard as any of the scholarship guys, busts his ass, and then gets put on scholarship. There’s really nothing better than that in college football.
“You see it in Dan’s eyes. He’s so excited because he knows how hard he’s worked. You saw it today — he’s good. He’s definitely one of the most improved on offense… I was actually talking to him about it in the hot tub a few days ago — how hard he’s worked and how much improvement I’ve seen.”
On the other side of the ball, senior linebacker and former Theatre 101 classmate Cam Brown was elated when he heard the announcement.
The Nittany Lions mobbed Chisena after his 59-yard touchdown and scholarship moment.
"It’s funny, because we were in the locker room beforehand, and we were talking about how we came a long way from Theatre 101,” Brown said. “When I heard, ‘Dan, you’re on scholarship,’ I got up and sprinted over there, and that’s the first thing I thought about.”
Brown also gave his unique, defensive perspective on Chisena’s blazing speed.
“He’s a worker. That kid is probably the fastest person on the team on a straight line — when he runs past you, he runs past you,” said Brown.
Faster than KJ Hamler?
“Eh, I don’t know. I have to see them race — that’s an ugly interview. I have to see them race first,” Brown joked. “Dan’s just different. He’s got that stride. He works hard in everything he does. You’re getting that 100 percent speed out of him every time. What he did today, I can see that happening in the fall.”