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‘I’m Gonna Go Where I Know People Actually Care’: Why KJ Hamler Chose Penn State

In his first one and a half seasons with Penn State, KJ Hamler has quickly become one of the faces of the program — with his speedy, exciting play, upbeat personality, and peace-sign touchdown celebration.

After Hamler’s trouncing of Michigan in the White Out, where he picked up two touchdowns and 108 yards, a ton of people in the state of Michigan must have been scratching their heads. How could both Michigan and Michigan State have allowed the star receiver to leave his home state to go play for another team in the Big Ten?

“I think the biggest reason he chose not to go [to Michigan] was just thinking he wasn’t going to fit in with their whole program,” Hamler’s mom Latonya said in an interview with The Notorious B1G Recruiting Podcast. “At that time, they were really into bigger receivers.”

In high school, Hamler was just 5’9″ and supposedly — depending on what article you read — 165 pounds. To put it simply, he was small. His size might have had a lot to do with why Michigan wasn’t in his top two, but it doesn’t explain why he ultimately chose James Franklin’s program.

“Michigan State was the biggest one on our radar,” Hamler’s mom said before mentioning that he was between Michigan State and Penn State at the end of his recruitment journey.

The Spartans were very interested in Hamler. This week, head coach Mark Dantonio said he “really likes KJ as a person” after getting to know him on the recruiting trail.

But everything changed when Hamler tore his ACL at IMG. Former receiver coach Josh Gattis was the first person to call Latonya while Hamler was still laying on the field.

“I was in the stands, and he was calling me like, ‘What’s going on?’ I was like, ‘I don’t know. Let me call you back,'” she explained. “This went on like all night with Coach Gattis. As a matter of fact, I think Coach Gattis was the only person that actually called that night.”

During Hamler’s surgery and recovery, Gattis and Coach Franklin were constantly at his side, flying back and forth between State College and Florida to check on him.

“KJ had surgery on a Thursday. Coach Franklin and Coach Gattis were there to see him on Monday,” Latonya said. “They were kind of back and forth. They would fly back and forth to IMG to check on him. Every couple of weeks they would fly back and forth. I think after then, I think KJ was like, ‘I’m gonna go where I know people actually care.’ I’m not saying MSU didn’t. I’m just saying he felt more comfortable with the way Coach Gattis was still there for him and still supporting him.”

Hamler has since recovered from that injury and is stronger than ever before. Penn State was there for him during his injury, and ultimately, that’s why he’s tearing up the field with the Nittany Lions today.

This goes beyond the game of football, and shows who James Franklin is: compassionate, supportive, and able to steal recruits from Jim Harbaugh and Dantonio whenever he damn well please.

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About the Author

Katie Moats

Katie Moats is a senior majoring in English, and her goal this year is to get a big girl job. Seriously, though, if you're looking for someone who can write and edit like nobody's business, she's Katelyn Moats on LinkedIn and will literally interview with you tomorrow. You can follow her @k_moats24 on Twitter for stupid content, but if it's something serious, feel free to shoot her an email (preferably in the form of a poem) to [email protected].

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