Nits' Hamilton makes name for himself in debut

Posted: September 05, 2014

STATE COLLEGE - DaeSean Hamilton always expects big things out of himself, even though the opposition - and most fans - haven't heard his name or seen him on film.

Hamilton, a Penn State redshirt freshman wide receiver, was, admittedly, a no-name guy entering the season. But that was before he torched Central Florida's experienced secondary for 11 catches and 165 yards on Saturday.

"I hope I surprised them," Hamilton said after the game. "If I didn't, then I need to do a better job."

By all accounts, Hamilton shocked not just the Knights, but all 53,304 in attendance at Dublin's Croke Park. And given the impact Hamilton had in Penn State's 26-24 season-opening win, the Nittany Lions will be looking for him to continue impressing.

Coach James Franklin said the 6-1 pass catcher has a bright future.

"[He] runs the offense extremely well and obviously going out and playing the way he did on Saturday, I think he has a chance to build on his confidence and execution," the first-year coach said at a news conference this week.

With Allen Robinson departing to the NFL, who would replace him was a question posed by many.

One game is a small sample size, but Hamilton could be quarterback Christian Hackenberg's new go-to target. Hackenberg, who threw for a school record 454 yards against UCF, targeted Hamilton early, completing three of his first four passes to the Virginia native.

The heralded quarterback, who was in the same recruiting class as Hamilton, said the target is reliable, which speaks volumes considering his lack of in-game experience.

"Just like Geno [Lewis] and our tight ends, when you give him an opportunity he's going to make the play and make the effort," Hackenberg said after the game. "I think DaeSean's work effort is the reason why I trusted him so much."

That makes sense considering the offseason Hamilton and Hackenberg shared.

Hamilton said he would text his signal-caller two or three times per week to work on pass patterns and timing for close to 2 hours each session.

That extra work helped build a lasting chemistry between the two. But for Hamilton, just being physically able to catch a football was a relief.

Hamilton missed all of last season with a broken wrist he incurred in his senior year of high school. The wideout played through the pain his senior season and had no idea of the severity of the injury until his first phyical at Penn State.

"I had surgery about 2 weeks later," Hamilton said.

Nine to 10 months without catching footballs set Hamilton back, from both a physical and mental perspective.

All of last year, biding his time on the sidelines, Hamilton watched as his team experienced the ups and downs of a 7-5 season, including a crazed celebration after beating Michigan in four overtimes at home.

The wideout said that period of his life was tough.

That's why Saturday's game, his first since November 2012, meant so much to Hamilton.

"It felt like I actually mattered," Hamilton said. "I like to feel like I'm a part of something, and not just happy to be on the team."

If Hamilton continues producing like he did against Central Florida, that sense of purpose won't dissipate. If anything, it'll grow.

Just don't expect Akron to be as surprised as UCF was this weekend.

On Twitter: @jmcgonigal9

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