His speed had never been questioned. But when it came to quantifying exactly how fast he was on the football field for teams differentiating their NFL selection boards in milliseconds, K.J. Hamler knew he had a problem.
The 5’9 inch fast receiver did not run a 40 on the NFL combine, having suffered a hamstring injury during training. He also didn’t race at Pro Day because the COVID-19 pandemic led Penn State and countless others to cancel. So, with no other way to reliably quantify his most marketable skills, Hamler turned to technology.
Fortunately for him, this option was available. During his two seasons at Penn State, Hamler wore a Catapult GPS tracking vest at the request of sports science personnel to track how fast he was moving in the field. Hamler’s agents therefore requested that the same information be shared with NFL teams.
Now the only question is, how much will these teams trust him?
If they do, Hamler could see his stock sprint in front of other receivers in the project. Data sent to teams included top speeds with the ball in his first year of redshirt and his second season of redshirt. The two speeds (21.76mph and 21.58mph) would both have ranked in the top 13 fastest sprints in the NFL last season.
Still, the 40 has a strange way to put scouts at ease. While in the combine, tending his taut hamstrings, Hamler said he would run in the 4.2 range, “and I was not going to accept anything less.”
For those who actually watched the tape, it shouldn’t be necessary to plan concrete times. Few college football players last season looked faster on the field.
But there are more pressing questions about Hamler that cannot be answered with a single visualization of his highlights on YouTube.
“Most definitely my hands,” said Hamler, when asked where he should improve his game the most. “I’m not proud of it. I dropped eight balls last year. A lot of teams know it now. … I think it was a lack of focus for me, a lack of focus when catching “I always turned my head and tried to go up the field before I secured the ball. The most important thing on the field is the ball.”
Where he gets the ball, insists Hamler, whatever. But some scouts have wondered if he was able to play outside of the slot machine, where he spent most of the past two seasons at Penn State.
In two seasons as a main slot receiver, Hamler has had only four games with five or more catches. He always led Penn State in catches (56), yards (904) and touchdowns (8) last season, but in a busy receiver class, it’s fair to wonder how Hamler’s skills could translate into the NFL .
“Being a smaller receiver, being very versatile is probably the main thing teams want to see,” said Hamler. “I play mostly in the slot machine, but I will play wherever they need me.”
It will take the right team to find the right fit. But no matter where the fast wide range takes place, there is another part of his game that will help him acclimatize.
“I am a dog,” said Hamler. “It’s just point blank, period. You don’t find a lot of people my size who do certain things that I do.”