Follow along with our Penn State Recruiting Rewind series every Saturday morning. If you missed out, be sure to read our look back at RB Saquon Barkley, LB Brandon Bell, LB Jason Cabinda, TE Mike Gesicki, WR Chris Godwin, QB Christian Hackenberg and QB Trace McSorley.
DaeSean Hamilton owns the Penn State record for single-game receptions (14) and could leave campus as the Nittany Lions’ all-time leader in catches.
The redshirt senior receiver joined the program as a member of Bill O’Brien’s first full-cycle recruiting class, but he aims to cap off his college career with a second straight Big Ten title under James Franklin.
Hamilton, who attended Mountain View (Stafford, Va.) High School, was predominately considered a 3-star prep prospect. Nearly 20 scholarship offers by the start of his senior season indicated collegiate coaches perhaps valued him slightly more than industry analysts.
Hamilton, who competed at 6-foot-1, 185 pounds during his final high school campaign, collected the majority of those offers before O’Brien extended one in September 2012. Schools such as Duke, Maryland, Miami, Michigan State, West Virginia, Virginia and Virginia Tech entered the pursuit months in advance of Penn State.
His recruitment really started to take off midway through his junior year, as nearby programs were first to place him on their target boards for the 2013 recruiting class. This was just a few months after his second season playing for Mountain View coach Lou Sorrentino, who took over the program following Hamilton’s freshman season.
Sorrentino previously led Virginia powerhouse C.D. Hylton High, where he coached eventual Penn State standout Deon Butler. Though Butler arrived in Happy Valley as a walk-on defensive back, he left campus as the program’s all-time receptions leader (179) and carved out a four-year NFL career with the Seattle Seahawks.
The coach immediately identified promise in his new young pupil upon arrival at Mountain View.
“I remember when I got there, we sat down and laid out a plan of what the future looked like for DaeSean,” Sorrentino told Sean Merriman of the Big Ten Network. “I told him that the best teams I’ve coached were the ones where the most talented players were also the hardest workers, and he took that to heart.”
Hamilton emerged as an offensive focal point for Sorrentino. He became a two-time team captain and caught 64 passes for 1,073 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior, according to his Penn State bio.
Along the way, Sorrentino began to notice positive similarities between Hamilton and Butler. He relayed that insight to the Nittany Lions staff.
“I told Penn State that if you liked Deon Butler as a person, and they said, ‘Oh yeah, we loved him,’ [Hamilton] is going to be the same way,” Sorrentino told Land of 10’s Corey Masisak. “Waiting outside after a game up there, it was really a déjà vu moment for me when I saw DaeSean signing autographs. He was just like Deon, very personable with a big smile and all the little kids loved him.”
Penn State provided a game-changing offer just weeks into his senior season. O’Brien made a major impression during a visit to Virginia, according to Hamilton’s mother, Madgeline Hamilton.
“It was the honesty from the Penn State coaches that Sean fell in love with,” she told Merriman. “Coach O’Brien had a vision about how he was looking to build his program and where he saw Sean playing. He came in as a boy, but I knew that under these coaches’ watch, he would leave Penn State as a man.”
Hamilton would only spend one season on campus with O’Brien. It was a redshirt campaign, and by the time he stepped onto the field at Beaver Stadium in 2014, nearly two years separated him from his last live-action reception.
That catch was particularly memorable, as it marked the end of his high school career. Hamilton suffered a broken collarbone in a November 2012 playoff victory, according to Masisak, cutting short his postseason experience.
Just a few weeks later, on Dec. 9, he announced intention to attend Penn State following an official visit to the university. Despite severe program sanctions handed down by the NCAA that summer, Hamilton was headed to Happy Valley.
Here’s a look at how recruiting-industry leaders viewed Hamilton two months later when he signed his national letter of intent.
- 247Sports: No. 48 receiver; No. 412 overall; 3-star prospect
- ESPN: No. 56 receiver; unranked nationally; 4-star prospect
- Rivals: No. 42 athlete; unranked nationally; 3-star prospect
- Scout: No. 63 receiver; unranked nationally; 3-star prospect
Though his first year on campus required patience, Hamilton hit the ground running as a redshirt freshman in 2014. He broke the Penn State single-game freshman record for catches (11) and receiving yards (165) in his first game, a victory over Central Florida in Dublin, Ireland.
Hamilton surpassed that total six games later, setting a school record with 14 receptions against Ohio State. He went on to lead the Big Ten in catches (82) and topped all Nittany Lions with 899 receiving yards.
Those remain his season-best totals through three seasons of action. He’ll be counted on to contribute mightily again this fall, as Penn State replaces 2016 leading receiver and Tampa Bay Buccaneers draft selection Chris Godwin.
Hamilton needs just 19 catches as a senior to pass Butler atop Penn State’s career receptions list. He enters the season No. 10 all-time in receiving yards (1,985) at Penn State, placing him 1,041 yards shy of former Nittany Lions All-American Bobby Engram.