ADDISON, Ill. – K.J. Hamler’s size doesn’t matter.
Not if no one can catch him.
That was certainly the case on Sunday, when Hamler — a blur in a tight black shirt, white shorts and neon green leggings, with a silver chain bobbing up and down as he cut in and out of breaks — separated himself at Nike’s The Opening Regional camp just outside Chicago. A meager 5-foot-9 and 150 pounds, Hamler was a chiseled twig surrounded by massive redwoods.
And yet, one of the camp’s smallest receivers made the biggest impression.
“I think I did pretty good today,” said Hamler, who was named the camp’s wide receiver MVP despite being younger than many of his peers. “I ran my routes crisp, got a lot of reps in and went against the best competition.”
And sure, a recruiting camp and a football game are only distantly related, the difference being pads, helmets and extra helpings of physicality. But even on tape, the theme persists.
When Hamler touches the football, the opponent rarely touches him.
“Speed, quickness and technique are my three big things,” said Hamler, who has also established himself as an explosive returner and defensive back. “I don’t care about my size. You have to have heart, and you have to have a chip on your shoulder every day when you come out and work.”
That work yielded explosive results in the 2014 season, as Hamler caught 38 passes for 773 yards, averaging 20.3 yards per reception. It also drew the attention of college coaches, as offers from Michigan State, Louisville, Cincinnati, Indiana, and most recently, Michigan, all flooded in.
On Sunday, Hamler — a soon-to-be junior at St. Mary’s High School in Orchard Lake, Mich. — listed his favorites as Michigan State, West Virginia and Indiana, though there’s still plenty of time for all of that to change.
And though he has visited South Bend, Hamler — a three-star prospect, according to 247Sports — hasn’t earned an offer from Notre Dame.
“It’s a beautiful campus. That school has a lot of tradition there,” Hamler said. “I liked it up there, so hopefully I can get another visit up there soon.”
Until then, Hamler will keep turning heads, silencing doubters and earning offers. He will continue to let his diminutive size — and the perception that goes along with it — propel him to greater heights.
That adversity, after all, is what has made him so successful.
“I always play with a chip on my shoulder,” Hamler said. “They can doubt me because of my size or think whatever they want to, but I’m going to go out there and show what I’m about.”
In the simplest terms possible, that’s speed, quickness and technique, as well as a refusal to be satisfied.
“Today I ran a 4.5 (40-yard dash),” Hamler said, shaking his head. “I was kind of disappointed about that because I usually run 4.3’s, 4.4’s.
“But I’ll get back up there soon.”
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