A Look Back At Jahan Dotson’s Legendary Penn State Career

With 183 catches, 2,757 receiving yards, 27 total touchdowns, and a handful of honors throughout his Penn State career, Jahan Dotson will leave Happy Valley as one of the most decorated wide receivers in program history.

After declaring for the 2022 NFL Draft just a few weeks ago, the star wideout appears destined for greatness at the next level if his college career is any sort of indication.

The Nazareth, Pennsylvania native came to Penn State as a four-star recruit back in 2018 and never looked back. He got a taste of college football with eight appearances, including four starts, as a true freshman before becoming a full-time starter in 2019.

Dotson emerged as a fan favorite among Nittany Lions fans and served as a source of excitement and hope during two disappointing seasons in 2020 and 2021. To put that into perspective, let’s take a trip down memory lane with a look back at Dotson’s historic Penn State career.

The 2019 season was filled with success for the Nittany Lions. The squad went 11-2 with a Cotton Bowl Classic victory while Dotson started to open some eyes in Happy Valley.

Starting all 13 games for Penn State, Dotson served as solid No. 2 wideout opposite KJ Hamler. In Penn State’s win over Buffalo in the second game of the season, the young receiver scored his first career touchdown to get the Nittany Lions on the board in the first quarter.

Later in the game, Dotson put the icing on the cake with another 56-yard touchdown to make it a 45-13 game.

It was Dotson’s coming-out party, and it would show that the 5’11” wideout was capable of being a big-time playmaker for James Franklin’s offense. From there, Dotson would score two more touchdowns that season, including an electric 72-yard score against Purdue that saw him break out a nasty juke on his way to the end zone.

With Hamler departing for the NFL after the 2019 season, Dotson quickly stepped into a larger role. As you might’ve guessed, he handled the spotlight pretty well.

The 2020 season was the Jahan Dotson show for Penn State football. With the team struggling to the tune of a 4-5 record, Dotson provided the fanbase with a much-needed reason to watch during some tough times.

Time and time again, the stud wideout would make big-time plays and keep opposing defenses guessing. Speaking of big-time plays, who could forget his incredible one-handed snag over Ohio State corner Shaun Wade early in that season?

That wasn’t Dotson’s only touchdown that day. Earlier in the game, he found the end zone on a post over the middle.

So, Dotson scored just two touchdowns that day, right? Wrong. Later in the game, he scored one last time. Despite the tough loss the team suffered, it was clear Dotson was a legitimate No. 1 receiver after that game.

It was a lot of the same for Dotson the rest of the season, and it would all culminate in the final game of the season against Illinois. He posted six catches worth 189 yards and two touchdowns in the 56-21 blowout win over the Fighting Illini. If it couldn’t get more impressive, he did basically all of that in just one half of football.

Dotson totaled 52 catches for 884 yards and eight touchdowns during the nine-game 2020 season. Following his breakout campaign, there was a lot of chatter about whether he would declare for the 2021 NFL Draft. Evidently, he decided to run it back for one more year in the blue & white.

Before 2021, Dotson was a great receiver and an obvious No. 1 wideout. However, his monster 2021 season transformed Dotson into an absolute superstar.

Dotson came out hot in 2021 with a five-catch, 102-yard performance in the season-opening win over Wisconsin, including a touchdown. He would score five touchdowns over his next four games, including a nice-looking grab in the back of the end zone against Auburn in the White Out.

His White Out touchdown was pretty sweet, but his ridiculous score two games later against Indiana may have topped it.

During that Indiana game, Dotson and Sean Clifford combined for 23 touchdowns together, setting a program record for the most scoring connections between a quarterback and pass-catcher and breaking the previous mark held by Todd Blackledge and Kenny Jackson. The record was just a culmination of the duo’s dynamic connection they developed during their three years together in the starting lineup.

Dotson’s best game as a Nittany Lion came three games later when Penn State made the trip to College Park for a matchup with Maryland. With about 20 of his family members in attendance, he absolutely terrorized the Terps’ defense and broke the program’s single-game receiving yards record with 242 yards. He added three touchdowns, too.

He sent a Maryland defender into another universe with a filthy double move for his first score of the day.

For his second touchdown, he got up high and hauled the ball in to put Penn State up 14-6 in the third quarter.

The third score — an 86-yard bomb — was the fourth-longest receiving touchdown in program history.

After the game, Dotson had tears in his eyes talking about what it meant to him to have his family there to watch him put on a show, and he expressed his gratitude toward them for all the sacrifices they made for him growing up.

“I’m literally a kid out here having fun, playing the game I love,” Dotson said after the game. “Games like this are special. I had a lot of my family members here today. A lot of them were seeing me play for the first time.”

“It’s huge,” he continued. “It was really fun doing it. I’m happy people that got to see me play for the first time — this was the one game they got to see.”

Three games later in the regular-season finale against Michigan State, Dotson ended his Penn State career the way everyone thought he would — with absolute dominance.

Dotson caught eight passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns while battling the snowy conditions in East Lansing. His first touchdown on the day was from 30 yards out and tied the game up at 14 in the second quarter.

His second score, which would end up being the last of his illustrious Penn State career, left him tied for the second-most receiving touchdowns in program history with 25.

You can find Dotson’s name toward the top of several receiving records in the program’s history. His 183 career receptions rank No. 2 all-time, while his 2,757 receiving yards are the fourth-most in program history. Additionally, his 91 receptions, 1,182 receiving yards, and 12 receiving touchdowns in 2021 are all the second-most ever by a Nittany Lion in a single season.

Dotson’s impact on the program goes deeper than just on-field production. He’s the perfect example of how a player should carry himself.

Dotson triumphed the football field during his four-year career in Happy Valley, but at the same time, he handled some hardships off the field. Recently featured in a Big Ten Network mini-documentary, Dotson’s mother, Robin, has battled multiple myeloma, a cancer that forms in plasma cells.

“Coming back to be able to see me play, it kind of brings me life,” Dotson said in the documentary. “My mom’s fight is basically my fight. My mom went through so many tough things. I’m just trying to repay it for her.”

During that time, Dotson never skipped a beat on the gridiron and flourished on some of the brightest stages in college football. We learned this season that Dotson carries a football everywhere he goes. The dude just loves football, plain and simple.

Who knows when we’ll see another player like Dotson don the blue and white again. Players like him don’t grow on trees. Heck, he even had a song written about him.

With a legendary college career now in the books, the kid from Nazareth is primed for greatness at the next level.

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About the Author

Gabe Angieri

After a four-year career with Onward State, Gabe is now a college graduate and off to the real world. He shockingly served as the blog’s managing editor during the 2022-23 school year and covered football for much of his Onward State tenure, including trips to the Outback Bowl and Rose Bowl. For any professional inquiries, please email Gabe at [email protected]. You can still see his bad sports takes on Twitter at @gabeangieri.

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