GLENDALE, Ariz. — With his jersey and pads still on underneath his new Fiesta Bowl champions T-shirt, DaeSean Hamilton entered the interview room with his phone out, ready to record the moment.
“Just trying to document all the stuff since I’ve been here, like, a decade,” the Penn State wideout deadpanned.
Give or take.
Hamilton wasn’t the only fifth-year senior on the Nittany Lions 2018 squad that finished 11-2 with a win in Saturday’s Fiesta Bowl, but his tenure in the blue and white certainly feels the longest.
For some perspective, consider that the first offensive play of the James Franklin era at Penn State was a reception by Hamilton against UCF in Dublin in 2014. In his first college game, he caught 11 passes for 165 yards to help the Lions pull out the win.
And that was after he had already been on campus for a year, redshirting while recovering from wrist surgery that prevented him from doing much at all.
With his Penn State career now officially over as the calendar turns to 2018, Hamilton leaves the Lions with 214 catches for 2,842 yards and 18 touchdowns in his career, numbers which rank first, second and fourth in program history, respectively.
“(These are) my last days here, just enjoying the time with the team and trying to document all the good moments we’re having,” Hamilton said. “And obviously finishing the season with a win it really means a lot. And it was really important to everyone on the team, not just the seniors. So that’s all I’m trying to do is live in this moment and enjoy it all.”
Hamilton was a huge reason why the Lions were able to celebrate this weekend with a 35-28 win over Washington.
Along with his five catches for a game-best 110 yards, he hauled in Penn State’s first and final touchdowns of the game, with the latter proving to be the decisive score. His other three catches all moved the chains.
On both scores, he ran a fade route and dusted Huskies cornerback Myles Bryant.
“We’ve got a bunch of really talented skill players that if they’re matched up in man coverage, they’ve got a chance to win,” Franklin said. “Ham did that a number of times tonight.”
And he nearly had a third touchdown in the fourth quarter. Hamilton got inside position on his man on a slant to the middle with a clear path to the end zone in front of him. Only a quick play by a Huskies linebacker led to a deflection, a high ricochet and an interception.
A year ago, Hamilton was held without a catch in the Lions’ Rose Bowl loss to USC. A tough finish to a season in which he beat himself up for a costly drop against Pitt that contributed to the team narrowly missing the College Football Playoff.
The Virginia native hasn’t been shy talking about how much that play affected him and drove him to improve. That led to more offseason work with quarterback Trace McSorley on timing.
The two were in sync all day Saturday, particularly on the touchdowns — the difference between a Lions win and a loss.
“Guys like him made the transition work so well,” said Ricky Rahne, who was in his first game as offensive coordinator, taking over for Joe Moorhead. “Can’t say enough about DaeSean Hamilton. Great player, great person.”
Both were on display this week in Arizona as national media picked up the story of Hamilton’s autistic brother Darius, whom DaeSean has helped serve as a caretaker for throughout life.
Darius was at the game and featured on the ESPN broadcast as the family got to see DaeSean close out his career in style.
“Having a big game like this on the big stage, and obviously getting a win with this team means a lot,” DaeSean said. “For my brother and for the rest of my family — had a lot of people come out, and for them to see me play well today and to see us end the season with a win, it was really special.”