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NFL draft: Penn State DE Yetur Gross-Matos, WR KJ Hamler picked in second round

Gross-Matos led the Nittany Lions in tackles for losses and sacks last season. Hamler caught 56 passes for 904 yards and eight touchdowns.

Penn State football defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos (99) and wide receiver KJ Hamler (1) during the program's annual media day on Aug. 3.
Penn State football defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos (99) and wide receiver KJ Hamler (1) during the program's annual media day on Aug. 3.Read moreCRAIG HOUTZ / For the Inquirer

Penn State defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos sat with his family at their Fredericksburg, Va., home for the entire first round of the NFL draft but never heard his name called.

However, the outlook was considerably brighter Friday night when Gross-Matos heard his name called shortly after the start of Day 2 of the draft, going in the second round -- No. 38 overall -- to the Carolina Panthers.

“I had some really good discussions with the Panthers, and I knew there was a chance,” Gross-Matos told the Panthers media on a Zoom call.

“It’s just been a blessing. My family and I have been leaning on each other. I’m feeling lucky to be here.”

Gross-Matos’ Penn State teammate, wide receiver KJ Hamler, went shortly afterward, heading to the Denver Broncos as the 46th pick where he’ll be reunited with one-time Nittany Lion wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton.

“He’s an electric player with excellent speed and high character,” Broncos president of football operations and general manager John Elway said on Twitter.

The 6-foot-5, 266-pound Gross-Matos, 22, who left the Nittany Lions with one year of eligibility remaining, made first-team All-Big Ten for the second straight year after posting team highs of 15 tackles for loss and 9 ½ sacks last season. He had 20 tackles for loss and eight sacks in 2018.

He also was a finalist for the Ted Hendricks Award given to the nation’s best defensive end.

With the Panthers, Gross-Matos will be playing for another former Nittany Lion, first-year head coach Matt Rhule.

“As a player, I am always someone who is going to work hard,” he said. “I want to be great. As a person, I always want to bring positive energy.”

Hamler, 20, who is 5-9 and 178 pounds, showed game-breaking potential in his three seasons with the Nittany Lions. He led the team with 56 catches, 904 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.

The second-team All-Big Ten selection also handled punt and kickoff return duties for the Lions, averaging 21.4 yards on 24 kickoffs and 5.5 yards on 23 punts.

Hamler was not able to run at the NFL combine because of a hamstring injury, but he is reported to have run a 4.27-yard time in the 40-yard dash prior to the combine. He did have trouble with dropped passes last season but it apparently didn’t hurt his draft status.