DaeSean Hamilton’s brother may not be able to spot him on the field or fully understand what’s happening in the game, but the wide receiver hopes his brother knows that he’s playing for him.
Darius Kendall Hamilton, 24, has nonverbal autism, which was diagnosed at a young age. Although he can’t necessarily follow the game, he will be supporting Hamilton in the stands Saturday at the Fiesta Bowl against Washington.
While Darius doesn’t know the ins and outs of football, he knows something good has happened when the stadium gets loud, Hamilton said. Their parents, who have been military veterans for more than 20 years, help Darius locate his brother by pointing to him on the field.
“That’s really how he’s able to understand exactly what’s going on,” Hamilton said Thursday.
For the native of Fredericksburg, Va., his brother is his motivation.
“A lot of things I’m doing in football is for him,” Hamilton said. “It’s humbled me and allowed me to not really take anything for granted because a lot of things I’m doing he’s not able to do, and I know he probably would die to be in the position that I’m in.”
Darius and his parents, who live together, flew into Arizona on Wednesday night with the eldest of the siblings, their 35-year old sister.
When the siblings were growing up, Hamilton and his sister were like additional parents to his brother.
“That’s really all I knew at a young age, and it made me mature,” Hamilton said. “It also humbled me at a young age as well, not to really take anything for granted.”
By the time the senior looks up in the stands to find his family Saturday, it will probably have hit him that it’s his last time playing with the ninth-ranked Nittany Lions.
“It’s going to hit me Saturday,” Hamilton said. “I know that for a fact. I’ve just been trying to enjoy this week with the team, talking to as many guys as I can before I head out of here. It hasn’t hit me yet, but I just know the days are winding down.”
This week, he and the upperclassmen have been looking back on the various bowl games they’ve been to over the years, and even the time when they didn’t know if they’d ever play in a bowl game at Penn State.
“We’ve just been reminiscing, so to speak, of all the different places we’ve been, all the different experiences we’ve had, and all the fun we’ve had together,” Hamilton said.
The team dynamic has changed.
When Hamilton was a freshmen, there was a noticeable division among the underclassmen and upperclassmen, the now-seniors often recall. The older guys at the time were recruited by Joe Paterno and Bill O’Brien. Now, with every player having been recruited by James Franklin, the team feels united.
Juwan Johnson, who will play a crucial role in Penn State’s receiving corps next season, values the time Hamilton spent this season tossing the ball around after practice with tight end Mike Gesicki and him.
“DaeSean’s always been a role model to me,” Johnson, a redshirt sophomore, said. “He’s been there for me, catching after practice … being a role model for us, to have hard work and always be consistent, to never waver your attitude, to have a positive attitude going into practice, after practice, during games.”
Hamilton said he wants to end this season differently than the last two — with a win.
“I’m putting my all into it,” Hamilton said, “and doing everything I can to make [Darius] proud and my family proud.”