WEST SPRINGFIELD—When DaeSean Hamilton began to blossom into a standout wide receiver at Mountain View High School, his aspirations to compete at the major college level became realistic.
After Hamilton recorded 82 receptions for 899 yards as a redshirt freshman at Penn State in 2014, his belief grew that his NFL dreams could be realized.
Hamilton entered the Denver Broncos training camp last summer as a confident rookie fourth-round draft pick.
During his first couple of days of camp in 2018, Hamilton and fellow rookie receiver Courtland Sutton demonstrated to the Broncos they were capable of excelling at the highest level.
Hamilton’s career didn’t get off to a blistering beginning but he wound up starting the final five games of the season and finished with 30 receptions for 243 yards and two touchdowns.
With leading receiver Emmanuel Sanders’ timetable to return uncertain as he recovers from December surgery on his Achilles tendon, Sutton and Hamilton are suddenly atop the Broncos’ depth chart entering training camp July 27.
Hamilton trained diligently this offseason in Miami before he returned home to Stafford County in the past several days to work out with other high school, college and pro players at The St. James Sports, Wellness & Entertainment Complex in Springfield.
As Hamilton was set to perform drills with St. James head high performance coach and director of football Myron Flowers on Tuesday at West Springfield High, he discussed his level of anticipation for the upcoming season, his ascension up the depth chart and the opportunity to catch passes from Super Bowl-winning quarterback Joe Flacco, who the Broncos acquired in an offseason trade with the Baltimore Ravens.
“I always had a dream of going to the NFL,” Hamilton said. “I didn’t think ‘Yeah, I can definitely do it.’ I just knew that I could get to the next level from high school and when I got to college I was like ‘Yeah, I can definitely play in the NFL.’ … The next thing I’m looking forward to is performing at a high level and being successful in the NFL.”
A RIGOROUS OFFSEASON
That quest requires commitment well beyond just practicing and performing on Sundays.
Flowers has several NFL players in his training group, including Washington Redskins tight end Vernon Davis and incoming rookie wide receiver Kelvin Harmon.
There’s also Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Anthony Chesley, Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Ryan Smith and Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Zach Pascal.
Hamilton joined the group recently to train while he’s at home. Last Tuesday was a speed training day as the unit opened with laps around the track followed by stretching. They then performed drills stepping over and then sliding under track and field hurdles.
With temperatures close to 90 degrees, sweat was immediately pouring.
“Their offseason was the winter,” said Flowers, a former North Carolina Central standout who had a career in the Canadian Football League. “You really got better for the season in the winter. This is just fine-tuning prior to camp. The old-school days are over in the sense that guys got in shape in camp or started to get in shape in the summer for football. Nah, these guys are pretty much ready to rock and roll.”
Hamilton (6-foot-1, 203 pounds) certainly fits that category. He was applauded by Broncos coaches early in training camp last season for the professional manner in which he carried himself.
However, the start of the regular season didn’t go exactly the way he envisioned or hoped. He knew that he would begin the campaign behind veterans Sanders and Demaryius Thomas and Sutton came on strong, as well. But Hamilton suffered a setback when he injured his knee in Week 7 against the Cardinals and missed the next two contests.
After Thomas was traded to the Houston Texans in November and Sanders injured his Achilles against the Bengals on Dec. 2, Hamilton was thrust into the No. 2 receiver role. He was targeted at least eight times in the final four games of the season. He’s eager to see how he’ll respond as that workload continues.
“The last half of the season last year you saw a little glimpse of what I’m expecting more of this year,” Hamilton said. “I’m obviously looking forward to getting that second or third wide receiver role, playing a lot in the slot and getting a lot more targets this year.”
Hamilton said Broncos’ coaches have looked closer at what helped him excel at Penn State, where he set the school’s all-time career receptions record with 214.
Hamilton is also hopeful that veteran signal-caller Flacco adds stability to the quarterback position. Another Stafford County wide receiver, Torrey Smith, teamed with Flacco to help deliver the Baltimore Ravens a Super Bowl championship to culminate the 2012 season.
The Broncos also have second-round pick Drew Lock in the fold in case Flacco falters or is injured.
“Flacco was with us for the mini-camps and OTAs, so we’re ready to build a relationship,” Hamilton said. “He looks great. He’s really taken control of the offense. We haven’t done too much yet, but from what I’ve seen going against our defense he’s been slinging the ball well. Once training camp gets started I expect the same thing.”
Hamilton entered training camp last summer wanting to make sure he was in peak shape to compete for a 16-game grind (20 including preseason).
This offseason, he mostly focused on position-specific movements that will allow him to blossom into a high-caliber professional player.
In addition to all the physical training, Flowers said a professional environment is also a benefit of training at the 450,000-square-foot St. James facility. Now that Hamilton is aware of the offering less than an hour away from home, he may not have to venture outside of Northern Virginia to prepare for the rigors of the NFL.
“Our philosophy is based on teaching these guys a lifestyle they need to develop to be pros,” Flowers said. “It’s not about them playing football. They’re talented. It’s about giving them the characteristics and things needed to be successful pros.”