With forty finished, Hamilton able to exhale
DaeSean Hamilton understood the reality of his Penn State Pro Day performance long before the day arrived Tuesday.
Saddled with the perception of not having top-end speed throughout his career as a Nittany Lion, the program’s career receptions leader had something to prove. Even after his ascent through the East-West Shrine Game, the next week’s Senior Bowl, and eventually the NFL Combine in Indianapolis earlier this month, Hamilton would need to recalibrate his mindset.
Hamilton would have to become a technically sound sprinter, for approximately 9.2 combined seconds or less, if possible. And he knew it.
“My biggest thing was to come out here and post a good time on my forty because I didn’t run at the Combine,” Hamilton told reporters Tuesday afternoon at Holuba Hall. “I just dialed in and harped in on running a fast 40 time. That’s really the only thing I was worried about.”
The effort paid off.
Clocking in at a hand-timed 40-yard dash that he was told was as good as a 4.47 but was no higher than a 4.51 (Penn State officially reported his time as a 4.52), Hamilton shed the burden he’d known to be untrue all along.
A technically sound football player with the records and the on-field consistency to back it up, Hamilton’s 214 career receptions at Penn State were not a coincidence. His 53 receptions for a team-high 857 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior, in fact, were also not by chance.
And in keeping his protestations to himself throughout the evaluation process the past few months, Hamilton said, he was able to push through and demonstrate for the stopwatches what’d already been clear on the film.
“That’s how it is. That’s politics I guess. When one person says something, it’s going to spread like wildfire and everyone is going to take that and run with it. Teams just trying to knock your game. But I guess that’s how football is,” he said. “It’s not necessarily frustrating. I just took it and didn’t really say anything. I just bit the bullet and kept working. I wasn’t really worried about what everyone was saying about my straight line speed. I didn’t even know what I was going to run because you don’t run forties throughout your whole training process. You just keep working and working and then you surprise yourself. I wasn’t really worried about what everyone else was saying, I just knew that on my pro day I was going to be able to show everybody.”
The reality for Hamilton, of course, is that he’s been working for the same goal for much longer than just the NFL Draft process.
In an interview with BWI prior to the start of his 2017 senior campaign, Hamilton revealed the same mindset that has carried him to this point. Refusing to get caught up in the hype or, in some cases, the negativity that often follows players, Hamilton said he’d let others do his worrying for him.
“I honestly think the NFL stuff is generic. A lot of people say the same thing to a lot of guys, especially in my situation,” said Hamilton. “The negatives are all the same for a lot of the same type of people, so I think they're saying a lot of the same stuff besides the guys that are first and second rounders. I don't really pay much attention to it. I let my parents go ahead and brainwash themselves into the whole NFL stuff. I don't really pay too much attention to it.”
Certainly, though, he is now.
Acknowledging that he’d surprised even himself with his Tuesday 40-yard time, noting his times were “a lot faster” than he’d run throughout his career as a Nittany Lion, Hamilton said he’ll now be able to go return to what he’s good at. And, having spoken to the Colts, Giants, and Steelers through the process, among other times, the NFL can similarly rest assured his abilities are not in question.
“I’m not really a guy that does all the tests or worries about the numbers, I just like to play football,” he said. “I didn’t know what to expect, I just knew I was going to put my best foot forward, and really just rely on my training, rely on the last two and a half months of all the things that I’ve been doing and just put that on display at the combine and at pro day.”