The Rise Of A Star: DaeSean Hamilton
If you’ve watched any Penn State football in the past three weeks, you should be familiar with the name DaeSean Hamilton by now. The young wide receiver has played a huge part in Penn State’s hot start to the season. His 11-catch, 165-yard performance in the Croke Park Classic garnered him national attention, and placed his name among the cream of the crop in college football right away.
At this time last year, however, Hamilton was just another face in the crowd.
Hailing from Fredericksburg, Va., Hamilton excelled on both sides of the ball in high school. He flashed a nose for the ball as a young, ballhawking safety at Mountain View High School, notching five interceptions in 2011. When utilized as a receiver, however, Hamilton was unstoppable. He put up 64 catches for 1,073 yards and 10 touchdowns his senior year, which earned him numerous accolades, most notably Offensive Player of the Year honors and an invitation to the Chesapeake Bowl (a prestigious all-star contest featuring top players from the East Coast) and the U.S. Army All-American Game.
Coaches from prominent Division I schools came flocking, and so did the scholarship offers. Hamilton, a three-star prospect, balanced offers from the likes of Boston College, Miami, and Virginia Tech. At the top of his list sat an offer from Penn State, and when it came time to sign his letter of intent, there was only one place he wanted to play.
Despite garnering plenty of hype, Hamilton’s freshman season ended before it had a chance to begin. A wrist injury he suffered in his senior year of high school did not heal properly before he enrolled at Penn State, which left him unable to participate in summer practices. The injury, which initially occurred in October of Hamilton’s senior year, was thought to only be a sprain. After time the pain subsided, but when he arrived on campus, doctors discovered that the bone in his wrist was actually broken.
Hamilton was then redshirted by then-coach Bill O’Brien for all of 2013. The off year proved to be beneficial, as it gave him time to fully master the playbook, and study the play of seasoned veterans like Allen Robinson and Brandon Felder. He wanted to learn as much as he possibly could, because deep down, he knew what he was capable of.
“Basically I just took mental reps, and learned the playbook just as much as other guys on the team learned it,” Hamilton said about the recovery process. “I just tried to learn as much mentally without implementing the physical part, because I wasn’t able to practice yet. Now, physically, I feel great.”
Robinson’s early departure to the NFL left a void in the Nittany Lions’ receiving corps, and a new head coach in James Franklin threw a wrench into what Hamilton had spent the entire season learning from the sideline. With change came an opportunity, however, and Hamilton was determined to step up and prove his worth to the inexperienced group of wideouts. But the Blue-White game came and went, and saw Hamilton record only two catches.
During summer practices, however, Hamilton began his progression to the next level. He, like the rest of the receivers, worked at multiple positions during the summer. The focus was to give the squad of receivers as much experience as possible, so each player could be ready to line up anywhere on the field. The new coaching staff kept Hamilton primarily on the outside, and his invaluable experience carried over to the regular season. The first depth chart, released prior to Penn State’s matchup against UCF, featured Hamilton as the primary Z-receiver, who would line up opposite Geno Lewis. What happened next is history.
Hamilton was expected to contribute to the offense against UCF, but his ravaging of the Knights’ secondary was a complete surprise. More importantly, he complemented Lewis perfectly, and quickly established a rapport with quarterback Christian Hackenberg, giving him a reliable target who could be counted on to come up with big plays. Hamilton’s stat lines in the following two games (seven catches for 69 yards, eight catches for 103 yards) backed up his first performance, and established himself as one of the rising young stars in the country.
Oddly enough, despite being healthy, Hamilton still did not feel 100 percent at the start of the year.
“I feel like I finally got my football legs back. UCF, I was just not getting it back,” Hamilton said. “[It was tough] getting back into the swing of things from being out over a year, [but] I’m finally back and healthy again.”
This rise to prominence did not come based off of talent alone. Hamilton’s work ethic is unquestioned, and he knows that putting in the extra time will lead to expected results. He frequently throws with Hackenberg, usually every morning, and is joined by his fellow receivers, to develop rapport and work on the little things.
“Timing’s really important in our offense,” said Hamilton. “I learned that he likes to put the ball in certain spots, and he expects me to be in certain spots when he finishes his reads.”
His early season success has even put his name into the Biletnikoff Award conversation, along with fellow Nittany Lion Geno Lewis.
Hamilton’s competition will be stiff in coming weeks. Matchups against the talented secondaries of Michigan and Ohio State will surely push him to the limit, but it should be fun watching him go head to head with players such as Blake Countess, a talented cornerback for the Wolverines.
Hamilton is becoming increasingly popular, and his newfound fame even brought along a new nickname: BaeSean. Hamilton seems to be having fun with the name, and it’s even beginning to stick.
“I think it’s pretty funny,” he said. “It makes me laugh when I see it in people’s tweets.”
The future seems to be bright for Hamilton, and his early triumphs could not come at a more opportune time. With sanctions lifted, the Nittany Lions are set on making a Big Ten Championship run, and the young wide receiver figures to be a catalyst for the team’s success. If the first three games are any indication, Hamilton will be in for a tremendous 2014 campaign.