Sean Clifford to KJ Hamler Connection Runs Far Deeper Than Just Football

By Jarrod Prugar on September 1, 2019 at 10:00 am
Aug 31, 2019; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions wide receiver KJ Hamler (1) runs with the ball during the second quarter against the Idaho Vandals at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

It should serve as no surprise that the first touchdown pass Sean Clifford threw as a starting quarterback went to KJ Hamler. After all, Clifford is the reason Hamler's a Nittany Lion. 

"He got me to commit here so I've been waiting for this moment, really," Hamler said. "People don’t really know about me and Cliff, but Cliff’s the reason I’m here. I appreciate him bringing me here because I wanted him to be my quarterback."

The dynamic duo met during camps in high school. There was an instant connection between the pair that's led them directly to where they are now, atop the Penn State depth chart, and finding the end zone regularly. 

"We'd go to camps together, see each other all the time, keep in contact. He called me when he was going to commit," Clifford said. "It's just awesome to be out there with him now just having a blast."

With their relationship, it's no surprise there were a lot of emotions when they hooked up for a 36-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

"All the stuff we always used to meet up at, and Cliff always used to tell me just come to Penn State," Hamler said. "That’s immediately what I thought about when I got in the end zone. It’s a blessing."

While the memories of how Clifford persuaded Hamler differ, one thing is for sure, they're both happy they're here and in this moment. For Clifford it was days like Saturday that were dreamt about during the recruiting pitch and came to fruition at Beaver Stadium.

"That, what we just did today. That was the pitch. Days like this, the grind of everything, just being together and having that connection," Clifford said. "When you have two touchdowns with a guy, that's always a good day. It's cool to see it come full circle now."

For Hamler the pitch was as simple as Clifford was the guy he's always wanted to have as his quarterback.

"I wanted Cliff to be my quarterback. We always used to throw together at Rivals camps and stuff of that nature. I’d always say no, I’m going with Cliff," Hamler said. "Me and Cliff always tag-teamed every camp we went to. I was like this could be a connection in the future, and I’m cool with his family, his mom, his dad, his little brother so it just clicked like that.”

That connection is what helped Clifford settle in after two drives where the redshirt sophomore signal-caller looked flustered and out of sorts. 

"At the beginning, I knew he was nervous I could tell. I just pulled him aside on the sideline," Hamler said. "Then he went on a little rampage after that. I just think he needed to get into the groove of things."

Clifford would settle down and find Hamler a total of four times for 115 yards and two touchdowns.

"He's one of the most explosive players in college football if you're asking me," Clifford said. "I'm not going to sugar coat it, I really think he's one of the best players in the country, if not the best. You have to get that guy the ball."

Their dreams have become a reality now, and Penn State fans can expect to see a lot more of these two. With a connection like theirs, it could be a dangerous combination for opposing defenses whether it's Idaho or Ohio State. 

Both Hamler and Clifford are aggressive players in their own unique ways and that aggressiveness is what attracted Hamler to his quarterback from the get go.

“I just liked how he was aggressive. How he takes shots, he takes risks and sometimes you need that. You need to be aggressive," Hamler said. 

With the first game of the season in the books, it's time to focus on Buffalo, Buffalo, Buffalo. With Clifford leading the way, it seems as though the offense is in good hands.

"I think Cliff did a really good job today," Hamler said. "I’m proud of him and I love him to death. I think he really stepped up as being a leader.”

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