Penn State’s most electric offensive weapon will get a chance to play in front of family and friends in his home state this weekend.
KJ Hamler, the Nittany Lions’ leading receiver with 498 yards and five touchdowns this season, will have at least 15 friends and family at the Big House for No. 14 Penn State’s game against No. 5 Michigan. The Pontiac, Michigan native will also line up against plenty of longtime friends when he takes the field for the Nittany Lions.
“I got a lot of my boys on Michigan,” Hamler said. “Going against them is going to be very fun. There’s gonna be a lot of trash talk, for sure.”
Michigan offensive lineman Cesar Ruiz was Hamler’s roommate at IMG Academy, and the two are still close. They talk almost daily, but Hamler said most of their conversations this week actually haven’t been about Saturday’s game.
“He hasn’t really been talking crazy to me,” Hamler said. “We always call each other just to see where our heads are at and keep in contact. He’s like a brother to me. Every time I call him, I tell him I love him and just see how he is.”
Hamler isn’t the first Nittany Lion to return home on a road trip this season. Penn State’s matchup with Pitt was a chance for Miles Sanders and Lamont Wade to play in their hometown, and Sanders recorded his first 100-yard rushing game in college as the team routed the Panthers.
Tommy Stevens also returned to his home state for Penn State’s 33-28 victory over Indiana. He threw a touchdown to Pat Freiermuth as the Nittany Lions snapped a two-game losing streak in Bloomington.
On the field, Hamler and Penn State’s wide receivers have been preparing to face a grabby group of Michigan defensive backs all week. Head coach James Franklin said the Wolverine defensive backs like to try and get away with holding , so he’s had the scout team grab Penn State’s receivers as much as possible this week.
“They get called for [holding] a decent amount, but they get away with it a lot more,” Franklin said. “They’re going to get their hands on you and be in your hip, but while they’re running it with you, they’ll grab you. They’re well-coached at it.”
Although Franklin made a note to prepare for the Wolverine secondary’s tendency to hold, Hamler isn’t that concerned about it.
“Don’t all DBs do that? It ain’t nothing new,” Hamler said. “You just have to learn to fight it off.”
Please choose an option below.