STATE COLLEGE – KJ Hamler’s 108-yard, one-touchdown performance against Maryland might pop off the stat sheet to the casual fan, but for the Penn State receiver, there’s still room for improvement.
That he accomplished those numbers in just more than two quarters still doesn’t move the needle on his perspective.
“I don’t think last game was a big game; I think it was average,” Hamler said. “I really don’t think reaching over 100-plus (yards) is a big game, so I feel like it’s always something to improve on. I still think I have a lot to prove.”
The redshirt sophomore said he thought 300 yards is what would constitute a big game
“I just set the bar high," Hamler said. "I don’t think a lot of people do that.”
Hamler’s on-field tunnel vision isn’t just something he reserves for himself. He holds his teammates to the same standard, despite their in-game performances. To him, football is a four-quarter game, and what ultimately matters most is the final outcome.
“I don’t tell them because they still need to keep playing,” Hamler said. “The game isn’t over with. You can have 150 yards in the first half, but you still have a whole other half left. I don’t really tell them — that’s just to hype up their heads. Just stay on track, keep ready to play.”
Hamler’s 100-yard game against Maryland was his second this season. He accumulated 115 yards and two touchdowns in Week 1 against Idaho. Last year as a redshirt freshman, he erupted for a career-high 138 yards and one touchdown against Ohio State en route to a 42-reception, 754-yard season.
This season, he’s already caught 16 passes for 353 yards and three scores.
Penn State coach James Franklin joked that he’d like to get Hamler “30 catches a game” but his team’s offensive play calls are ultimately determined by defensive matchups. On some days, Hamler might receive the lion’s share of catches, while on others, his fellow wideouts might be the beneficiaries.
“Honestly, with our offense, there are going to be games where Jahan Dotson catches 12 balls and KJ catches five,” Franklin said. “There are going to be games where KJ catches 15 balls and Jahan catches four. … Although we have a plan to get guys the ball, it’s all — at the end of the day — dictated on what the defense is going to run.”
Hamler’s 353 yards receiving currently rank him sixth in the Big Ten, and his 22.1 yards per catch are second in the conference. He’ll have a favorable matchup this week against a Purdue passing defense that sits at No. 118 nationally (296.5 yards passing allowed).
However, regardless of Hamler's output this weekend, he’d be more pleased with a win than any number of yards or touchdowns he'll register.
“I really don’t pay attention to the stats or how many touchdowns I score or things like that,” Hamler said. “In my mind, I do whatever I can to contribute to the team. I don’t really track how many catches I have or things like that.”