Before handing the keys off to official Mr. Mankato Oddsmaker – Chris Long, from the 5 Eyewitness News sports department – I just want to set the scene for the 2020 Mr. Mankato competition.
The Mackey & Judd Show created the Mr. Mankato Award back in 2014 as a way to highlight under-the-radar performers at Vikings training camp. And yes, we will continue to call it Mr. Mankato despite the fact that the Vikings have moved camp to their new, lavish practice facility in Eagan. Quite frankly, we don’t have the budget for a full rebrand to “The Eagan Everyman” competition. And we love alliteration. So, Mr. Mankato it remains.
There are four rules when evaluating Mr. Mankato candidates:
1.) Player MUST be a 3rd round draft pick or later (undrafted counts too)
2.) Player must NOT be an established NFL player (There’s some leeway here … Dru Samia was active in Week 17 last year, but didn’t do much. He is eligible.)
3.) If a player does not fall into category 1 or 2, a committee member may put that player up for review — and that player must receive more than 50% of the vote to be put on the ballot.
4.) The competition runs THROUGH the entire preseason — not just the Mankato (er, Eagan) portion. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
The first ever winner of the Mr. Mankato competition was fresh-faced, bright-eyed, undrafted rookie free agent Adam Thielen, who wowed coaches, fans and media with precise route-running, hands made of Elmer’s glue and a Rocky Balboa underdog story (did you guys know he’s FROM Minnesota?!).
This was his prize (again, budget…):
PREVIOUS MR. MANKATO WINNERS:
2019: Brandon Dillon (officially: “The Field”)
Finalists: Alexander Mattison, Bisi Johnson
Favorite: Alexander Mattison (3-2, heaviest ever favorite)
Misses: Ifeadi Odenigbo, Austin Cutting
2018: Kyle Sloter
Finalists: Mike Boone, Chad Beebe
Favorite: Holton Hill / Brandon Zylstra
Misses: Brian O’Neill, Tyler Conklin, Jalyn Holmes, Ifeadi Odenigbo
2017: Tashawn Bower
Finalists: Stacy Coley, Jaleel Johnson, Ben Gedeon
Favorite: Rodney Adams
Misses: Eric Wilson, C.J. Ham
2016: Jayron Kearse
Finalists: CJ Ham, Jhurrell Pressley, David Morgan
Favorite: Moritz Bohringer
Misses: Anthony Harris, Stephen Weatherly
2015: Stefon Diggs
Finalists: T.J. Clemmings, MyCole Pruitt
Favorite: Stefon Diggs
Misses: Danielle Hunter, Anthony Harris
2014: Adam Thielen
Finalists: Jabari Price, Matt Asiata
Favorite: Kain Colter
Misses: Jerick McKinnon
We also retroactively crowned several others going back to 2007 — including Marcus McCauley, Audie Cole and others.
Chris Long, take it away!
WELCOME TO MR MANKATO 2020!
And it begins. Sort of.
Conditions in the world mean the Vikings traded OTA’s, minicamp and post-draft rookie camp for behind-closed-door group workouts, “ramping-up” and, now, some form of training camp with a format and layout that are still somewhat of a mystery.
No fans will be in Eagan, no preseason games will be on TV, but even though no fan nor media member has seen a single purple jersey… training camp has begun.
That means there is work to be done to continue our time-honored tradition.
It’s time to prepare for another run at Mr. Mankato.
Most years, the Mr. Mankato honor is determined by a mysterious calculus that involves preseason games, observations made at training camp practices and general “eye test” calculations.
We already know we won’t see any preseason games ahead of the 2020 season, and we’re not exactly sure how much of the Vikings preseason workouts we’ll get to see – or exactly what they’ll look like.
Much like a ‘Most Valuable Player’ award, the members of the Mr. Mankato committee are by-and-large left to decide on their own what the criteria are – and who should win.
That, along with the state-of-the-NFL amid the pandemic, could make this year’s award decision lean much more toward being result-driven than process-driven.
Because by the time Week One rolls around, the results will be fairly clear but we won’t have seen as much of the process as we have in the past.
That said, Mr. Mankato might be settled not with “sizzle plays” on the field or by one-on-one battles won in Eagan, but rather by a prospect’s outlook at the beginning compared to where he eventually ends up.
We might not be able to decide a winner until we see what everyone’s role in Week One against Green Bay actually is.
Because it’ll be more about the results, and not the process, that also may mean – more than ever – we need to acknowledge different players will have different bars they’ll need to clear to be in the mix for this year’s award.
For example – if 7th-round pick Kenny Willikes gets a few snaps on defense in Week 1, then he’s in the mix.
If Dan Chisena is on the active roster at all, that makes him a finalist. Stay tuned for this one.
A guy like Dru Samia has to be a Week 1 starter, and defending Mr. Mankato Brandon Dillon probably has to make it all the way up to WR3 to be our first repeat winner.
Last note before we roll…
Coming off their record-setting 15 player draft class, with a roster that didn’t have too much turnover, and a handful of highly-touted undrafted free agent signees makes this about as wide open a Mr Mankato field with as many rated players (26*) as I can recall.
Not an easy task for an oddsmaker
So the table is set. Let’s dig in.
2020 MR MANKATO OFFICIAL ODDS
CAM DANTZLER … 3-1
NEVELLE CLARKE … 5-1
ALEXANDER HOLLINS … 5-1
KENNY WILLIKES … 6-1
BRANDON DILLON … 8-1
QUARTNEY DAVIS … 8-1
KJ OSBOURN … 8-1
DILLON MITCHELL … 10-1
DRU SAMIA … 10-1
DJ WONNUM … 12-1
OLI UDOH … 12-1
JOSH METELLUS … 16-1
BRIAN COLE … 16-1
NATE STANLEY … 20-1
JAKE BROWNING … 20-1
J. LYNCH + B. LYNCH … 25-1
TROY DYE … 30-1
HARRISON HAND … 30-1
MYLES DORN … 30-1
STACY KEELY … 40-1
KYLE HINTON … 50-1
BLAKE BRANDEL … 50-1
BRADY AIELLO … 50-1
JAKE LACINA … 75-1
DAN CHISENA … 99-1
FIELD … 35-1
CAMERON DANTZLER – CB Mississippi State / 20DRAFT-RD3
He’s the highest draft pick eligible for this year’s award and comes into a position group that’s completely up for grabs. That makes Cam Dantzler the 2020 Mr Mankato favorite.
Cam’s nickname, given to him by his high school coach, is “Needle”. Why? Because his coach said he was skinny and when he sticks people it hurts. To his credit, he’s designed a clothing line bearing the name and donates proceeds to a child hunger charity.
He has swagger for miles, bolstered by the fact former NFL swag master Terrell Buckley was one of college position coaches.
He ran a 4.64 at the combine, but later atoned with a 4.38 on a video that was made public.
His first collegiate interception was off Lamar Jackson and he sacked Joe Burrow last year – so he’s done ok against some top competition.
Lastly, no college receiver ever gained more than 60 yards in a game against Dantzler, and the passer rating when his receiver was targeted was an insanely low 43.6.
NEVELLE CLARKE – CB Central Florida / 20UDFA
Same position as our favorite Cam Dantzler, but arrived at the other end of the draft spectrum – which is to say, undrafted.
Clarke, a cousin of longtime NFL RB Willis McGahee, received more money than any other Vikings UDFA this year. The fact they threw $115k at him means he’s going to get plenty of chance to shine… and as an UDFA, he may not need to reach the same Week 1 level Dantzler would to win Mr. Mankato.
Clarke’s got a built-in wingman, having played next to Mike Hughes in college at UCF.
Oh, worried about the swagger factor?
“If you’re from Florida, we’re football breeders down there. That confidence thing is just something that we’re born with,” he says.
ALEXANDER HOLLINS – WR E. Illinois 19UDFA
Hollins falls, I believe, just under the cutoff for Mr Mankato eligibility. A 2019 UDFA, he was on the practice squad through Week 13. He dressed for the final 4 games of the season and saw 71 snaps. He also started Week 17 and made his first two NFL receptions.
Half of the last 6 Misters Mankato have been pass-catchers (Brandon Dillon, Stefan Diggs, Adam Thielen), because that’s who has the best chance to flash in preseason/training camp situations.
Hollins was a finalist for the 2018 Walter Payton Award as the best player in the FCS ranks. He’s also a burner. HIs 4.48 ties him with KJ Osborne as the fastest players in camp aside from Justin Jefferson. (Also, the kid from Penn State whom I love, but there’s a story with him coming later)
He’s going to battle Bisi Johnson and Tajae Sharpe for WR3.
KENNY WILLIKES – DE Michigan State 20DRAFT-RD7
Ok, this guy has potential Mr. Mankato storylines all over the place:
•Drafted in the last round
•Went from college walk-on to Big Ten DL of the Year
•He majored in chemistry
•Didn’t have a single D-I offer out of high school
•Posted an insane plyometric workout video online
•Attended Kirk Cousins’ passing camp as a kid
A guy not a single school offered a scholarship to had 10.5 sacks and 16 TFL last year on his way to winning the Burlsworth Trophy, apparently given to the best former walk-on in the nation. No, really. He ended up 3rd on Michigan State’s all time sack list with 26.
He’s one of eight kids (he’s 5th) with a brother who’s an Olympic-level trampolinist and a sister who is a concert pianist.
If he makes the team and sees any time at all on defense, he’s almost a lock to win this award.
THE REIGNING MR MANKATO
BRANDON DILLON – TE Marian / 19UDFA
Dating back through at least the last 6 to 7 Misters Mankato, everybody who won ended up making the team and having a noticeable role. That didn’t happen for Brandon Dillon, who was a runaway winner of 2019’s Mr Mankato award.
He came from NAIA Marian University and improbably made the roster, surpassing everybody who was given odds for the award… allowing the ‘Field’ bet to cash for the first time since Mr Mankato odds began being posted.
From there – he was active in Week 1, didn’t see much action, and was waived when the Vikings needed a spot to add Brent Jones. Dillon ended up spending the remainder of the season on the practice squad.
I’m not 100% sure if winning the award takes someone out of the running for subsequent awards, but I’ll assign him odds assuming he is eligible. The committee can sort it out later.
WIDE RECEIVERS WHO AREN’T ALEXANDER HOLLINS
QUARTNEY DAVIS – WR Texas A&M / 20UDFA
Davis was handed the vaunted ‘best signing among all the undrafted free agents’ tag after the draft.
The Vikings threw six-figures at him to keep him away from Dallas, whom everybody assumed he was heading to.
Posted a 4.54 40 at the combine, then later a 4.40 on a video chat with pro teams and the pre-draft scouting shared views of, “A technician of a route runner”, “Extensive knowledge of spacing” and “Expect Davis to impress on the practice field and force his way onto the roster.”
Before the draft his skills trainer is quoted saying, “His game is similar to Stefon Diggs.”
Big, if true. Would also make him Mr. Mankato.
Asked what his goal would be as an NFL rookie he answered, “I want to win the Super Bowl.”
K.J. OSBOURN – WR Miami 20DRAFT-RD5
In short – smart kid, speed merchant.
His 4.48 40 matched Alexander Hollins’ number tying him for 2nd fastest on the roster aside from Justin Jefferson (and the Penn State kid whose story, I promise, is coming later).
Osbourn starred at Buffalo before moving to Miami as a grad transfer. He was named to the “Hampshire Honor Society” by the National Football Foundation, is currently pursuing a masters in criminal justice, and wants to work with the FBI or United States Secret Service after his football career.
In college, his cell phone’s ringtone was the chime you hear on ESPN when you’re watching the NFL Draft. I love that.
Last fall he led the ‘Canes in catches, receiving yards, receiving Ids and all-purpose yards.
Hot take – he’s going to make the roster as the Vikings punt/kick returner. Unless, that is, Zimmer and company still have Marcus Sherels’ number.
Oh, also… his high school coach at the IMG Academy / Football Factory was Cretin-Derham Hall alumnus and Heisman winner Chris Weinke.
DILLON MITCHELL – WR Oregon 19DRAFT-RD7
A holdover from the 2019 draft class, Mitchell has a year on the other two in this tier, which could give him a boost toward making a run at WR3.
That’s probably what it’ll take for him to have a chance at Mr. Mankato.
We mentioned it last year… Penny Hardaway loves him.
Mitchell enjoys bowling and says, after football, he intends to make a run at being mayor of Memphis, Tennessee.
LINEMEN WHO MIGHT BE BLOCKED ON THE DEPTH CHART
DRU SAMIA – OG Oklahoma 19DRAFT-RD4
Samia was a hot name coming out of the 2019 draft – some saying he was the steal of it – but he couldn’t crack the lineup. Saw plenty of articles this summer referring to his 2019 season as a “redshirt year”. He only took 31 snaps in 2019 – all in Week 17 – as he was stuck behind Josh Kline. That Week 17 outing was rough, too – but remember, the Vikings treated it like a preseason game.
His Mr. Mankato candidacy hinges on a single fact – can he earn the starting job. Dakota Dozier will certainly have something to say about it.
For what it’s worth, Samia blocked for two Heisman winners in college – Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. He was the Big 12 DL of the year in 2018 after he took 400+ pass-blocking snaps and didn’t allow a single sack.
D.J. WONNUM – DE South Carolina / 20DRAFT-RD4
“Can D.J. Wonnum Become the Next Danielle Hunter,” said just about every headline of every article on the young man after the Vikings drafted him.
That’s a heck of an ask.
Wonnum is the same shape as Hunter – 6’5, big, wide, huge wingspan – but he was drafted way higher than most people expected.
Vikings DL coach Andre Patterson, who’s “coached up” some pretty solid guys the last several years, banged the drum for the Vikings to reach for Wonnum in the draft.
Wonnum has made big strides before. South Carolina was his only D1 offer, but by the time he was a sophomore they voted him team captain.
He’s not gonna grab a starting role, but could/should make the roster as a depth player.
OLI UDOH – OT Elon 19DRAFT-RD6
He’s not gonna play at tackle. I think that’s safe to say. But can Udoh move to guard and have coaches make a tough decision about Elflein, Dozier, Collins?
That’s what it’ll take for him to win Mr Mankato.
He made the 53-man out of the preseason last year, but ended up on the practice squad. He was activated for Week 17 where he’d make his NFL debut against… Khalil Mack. Udoh actually did ok in that game, all things considered.
He had big combine numbers last year and made huge strides from when he arrived at college to the draft, so there’s a history of growth with Udoh.
WHO’S GONNA BACK UP HARRISON SMITH AND ANTHONY HARRIS?
JOSH METELLUS – S Michigan / 20DRAFT-RD6
This guy was fun to watch in college, and it takes a lot to get me to say anything related to the Michigan Wolverines is fun.
Metellus was All-Big Ten three times and appears to be the favorite to land the #3 safety spot behind the two incumbent superheroes.
He was a three-year starter in Ann Arbor and lined up at OLB, FS, SS, CB and in the slot. He can play everywhere – which is pretty much what modern NFL safeties are asked to do.
All the pre-draft analysis home run tags are there: “High football IQ”, “Big hitter, solid at the combine”, “if he gets into an NFL game, he might not give the job back.”
BRIAN COLE – S Mississippi State / 20DRAFT-RD7
This guy has a hell of a journey:
5* prospect out of H.S. in Michigan… goes to Ann Arbor… Harbaugh cuts him… goes to the JuCo that was on the Netflix show “Last Chance U”… transfers to Mississippi State… deemed academically ineligible… redshirts… finally plays, tears pectoral muscle… finally sees serious time as a senior and lit it up.
He was a high school 5-star, so there’s raw talent there. Safe to say he may need a year on the practice squad for some seasoning, but might find a role as a special teamer who can hop in for some hybrid CB/S duty.
CLIPBOARDS NOW, FUTURES LATER?
NATE STANLEY – QB Iowa / 20DRAFT-RD7
He’s a local! Kinda. Went to high school an hour east in Menomonie, WI. That’s close enough they can probably get Vikings games on Twin Cities TV with an antenna, but the local channel is gonna be showing the Packers. He set school records for passing yards, career TDs and points in basketball.
But football fans from around these parts know Stanley as a 3-year starter at Iowa who alllllmost swept his three-games against the Gophers, before the Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman show proved too much for the Hawkeye D to handle in 2019.
Stanley’s 2nd on Iowa’s all-time passing list for TDs and yards, and they’ve had some pretty good QBs.
Stanley, and I had to double check this, is the first quarterback the Vikings have drafted since Teddy Bridgewater in 2014. Feels strange, but it’s true.
As we learned with Kyle Sloter not too long ago, any backup QB will have a shot at Mr Mankato – but without preseason games and public scrimmages, that one rainbow dime at the back pylon which can launch a Mr M candidacy may not be there this year.
JAKE BROWNING – QB Washington / 19UDFA
Another holdover on this list from last year, Browning was a Heisman-candidate just about every year he was at the University of Washington, but had to bide his time on the practice squad in 2019 after the Vikings signed him as an undrafted free agent.
He was on just about everyone’s Heisman watch-list in 2016 and 2017, and was one of the favorites entering the 2018 season.
In 4-years starting for the Huskies, he threw for 12,296 yards and had a TD/Int ratio of 94-43.
We know the Vikings QB room is divided like this: Cousins – (big gap) – Mannion – (big gap) – Browning/Stanley.
Will they keep all four?
THE UNRELATED LYNCH BOYS FROM BAYLOR
JAMES LYNCH – DT Baylor / 20DRAFT-RD4
BLAKE LYNCH – LB Baylor / 20UDFA
Even though James was a 4th rounder and Blake was an UDFA, we’re gonna offer these fellas up as a combined entry on the odds sheet because why not? Judd always seems to take our combo-entries.
Both are at positions that have a lot of names stacked ahead of them. James should make the team, Blake may have an uphill battle.
James may have the best “fun fact” of anybody in this already-too-long edition of the annual Mr. Mankato preview. His father Tim played linebacker at Nebraska – so he gave his son the middle name of “Husker”. Yep, it says ‘James Husker Lynch’ on his birth certificate.
He’d have fit right in with the Blackshirts in Lincoln, but went to Baylor and was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. His 13.5 sacks last fall are Baylor’s single-season record. He’s also their career record holder with 22.
He’s gonna fit in fine w/ the Vikings – he said Baylor’s style up front was similar to the Vikings’ with a ton of shifts, subs and varied looks… and that he “played everything” in their alignment.
Seems versatility is a thing down in Waco, as Blake Lynch also moved around a lot. He played RB, WR, CB, S and LB – in that order. Was a WR as a freshman, moved to WR/CB as a sophomore, played LB/S as a junior then finally settled as a full-time LB as a senior.
He was a 4-star out of H.S. where Kris Boyd was a teammate – both were U.S. Army All-Americans at Gilmer H.S.
MAN, THERE SURE ARE A LOT OF GUYS ON THIS LIST THIS YEAR (whom we will handle in bulletpoint fashion)
TROY DYE – LB Oregon 20DRAFT-RD4
Doesn’t seem to be room for much movement on the LB depth chart. Would need an injury or amazing camp to make a splash.
•Roomed with Dillon Mitchell at Oregon
•Only player in Oregon program history to lead team in tackles 4 straight years
•Girlfriend Kenzie Dunmore is an All-American sprinter
•Father Mark was a Houston Astros minor leaguer
•Brother Tony played safety for Mike Zimmer in Cincy, was a U.S. Junior Olympic team member in hockey, and had an offer to play hockey at Shattuck-St Mary’s.
HARRISON HAND – CB Temple 20DRAFT-RD5
He’s in that mix to carve out a spot on the re-vamped CB depth chart.
•Very physical for a CB
•Cousin of former Chiefs DL Turk McBride, who mentors him now
•Was close friends with fellow draftee James Lynch at Baylor
•Was on a 7-on-7 team in high school with- get this… Tua Tagovailoa, Jerry Jeudy, Jalen Reagor, Xavier McKinney, KJ Hamler, Cam Akers – all 1st/2nd round picks
MYLES DORN – S N. Carolina 20UDFA
Will battle with draftees Metellus and Cole for the backup safety role, but is a step behind them to start off.
•Was a WR in high school, but evolved into a very good tackler in college… not something a lot of WR-to-DB converts end up doing
•His father Torin played 6 NFL seasons as a DB in OAK/STL, and also played for Mack Brown in college… 30 years before his son did
•Has a brother playing pro hoops in Poland
STACY KEELY – DE Ala-Birmingham / 19UDFA
The last of the holdovers from last year. Made practice squad in 2019 after a great showing at rookie camp
•Is 30lbs bigger now than last year
•Had a winding college path: Was TE at S. Dakota St, a DE at Iowa Western CC, then finally a LB at UAB
•Was a rare *four* sport athlete in high school: FB, hoops, wrestling and was a state high jump champ
•Aspires to a career in social work after football
KYLE HINTON – OG Washburn / 20DRAFT-RD7
Vikes grabbed a guy from NAIA Marian last year and it worked out (Brandon Dillon), then drafted Hinton from D2 Washburn this year.
•Was last of Vikings record 15 draft picks
•Washburn’s nickname? The Ichabods. I had their hat in high school
•Zero D-1 offers out of high school, ended up a consensus D-II All American
•Pro Day 40 was a 4.86, which is crazy fast for an OL
•Kinda little- 6’2 295, Kubiak said he might be a center?
•Psych major, 4x academic all-conference, wants to go into law enforcement after football
TWO GUYS FROM THE STATE OF OREGON WHO, IF THEY MAKE THE TEAM AND START NEXT TO EACH OTHER SOME DAY, WILL BE AMAZING TO SEE
BLAKE BRANDEL – OT Oregon State / 20DRAFT-RD6
BRADY AIELLO – OG Oregon / 20UDFA
These dudes are both 6-foot-7. How awesome would it be if they both make it and someday line up shoulder-to-shoulder?
Vikings would need to find a 6’5 QB just to be able to throw the ball to that side of the field.
They’re tied with Brian O’Neill as the tallest Vikings on the roster.
Blake Brandel is an interesting one. Pro Football Focus rated him as the single-best pass blocking OT in the entire nation, and 6th best OT overall.
He made 48 straight starts at Oregon State and is said to have great technique.
He’d fit right into the Vikings track record of high-IQ offensive linemen, as he was All-Academic Big 12 and holds a degree in Business Entrepreneurship.
Brady Aiello was part of an amazing unit on the other side of the state in college. His OL at Oregon might’ve been the best front line in all of college football – two were drafted, two were UDFAs and the other (Penei Sewell) is a lock to be a top-five pick in 2021.
He started 25 games at OT in Eugene, but switched his number for the home opener his senior year. He swapped 66 for 82, lined up at wide receiver and (…paging Gary Kubiak…) caught a TD pass from Justin Herbert.
A COUPLE WOULD-BE GREAT STORIES TO ROUND THINGS OUT
JAKE LACINA – C Augustana / 20UDFA
Yep, you know the name. He’s 10-year NFL vet (and 1999-2002 Viking) Corbin Lacina’s son.
The Vikings have never had a father-son duo. How cool would that be?
Don’t be fooled, though. The younger Lacina didn’t get his invite to Eagan simply by being a legacy. He won the D-II Rimington Award as the best center in the country and was a consensus All-American and was first-team D-II All-Pretty-Much-Everything.
Also, before any of you Power-Fivers look down your nose at Augustana – that’s where papa Corbin AND current Vikings FB C.J. Ham both went.
Before the pandemic hit, I was at a skills training session Jake was working out at. The kid’s athletic, and has a perfect disposition to be both an UDFA underdog, and a kid trying to stake his own claim on the same field his father played on 17 years ago.
DAN CHISENA – WR Penn State / 20UDFA
The Mr. Mankato race will be very simple to decide this year if one thing happens…
…if Dan Chisena makes the team.
This guy could be the underdog story of underdog stories.
I teased the story earlier, so here’s your payoff.
This is Chisena’s career receiving line at Penn State:
-3 catches, 66 yards
That’s it. Three catches. Not last game, not last year… that’s the sum total of his receiving in five years at Penn State.
(One, actually, was in the landmark 2019 PSU/Gophers epic at TCF Bank Stadium)
Of course, there’s a story.
A two-sport star at his suburban Philadelphia high school, he only had one offer for college football- at the University of Delaware, where his father Dave played.
Chisena opted to head to Penn State, where his great-grandfather, grandparents and cousin all attended. Apparently, great-grandpa Enos J. Perry is one of those guys whose name you can drop in State College and get a little run.
So Chisena walks onto the Nittany Lions program just as James Franklin is starting to rebuild the fallen superpower.
After redshirting his freshman fall, Chisena ran track in the spring.
As a 3-time state champ in the 100, 200 and 4×100, the track team offered him a scholarship. He accepted, and walked away from the football team to spend three years running track.
He competed on Penn State’s 4×100 and 4×400 relay teams that set school records, won Big Ten titles and contended for national championships.
As his fourth year in Happy Valley approached, he checked in with Franklin and told him he wanted to re-join the football team.
You can’t teach speed so, obviously, Franklin welcomed Chisena back.
He won six “Scout Team Player of the Week” awards and saw only sparse action before a hamstring tear ended his season.
He decided to returned for his fifth year. During the annual Blue-White spring game, he flashed his afterburner-like speed for a highlight-reel touchdown.
Immediately afterward, Franklin picked up a bullhorn and made an announcement that echoed through Happy Valley – Chisena was going to receive a scholarship. After three years on the track team’s tab, he was finally a full-on Nittany Lion football player.
In his fifth fall on campus, he finally got into the boxscores with a 40-yard catch against Maryland, a 6-yard catch against Purdue and finally a 20-yard reception against P.J. Fleck’s Golden Gophers.
Following the season he earned three of the team’s annual awards and – prior to playing in the Cotton Bowl – graduated with a degree in security and risk analysis.
With just three career receptions, aside from a stellar special teams resume, Chisena was unsurprisingly not invited to the NFL Combine. Instead, taking part of a few private workouts.
In one of them, on video published by several draft analysis websites, he was clocked running the 40-yard dash in 4.32 seconds.
That would have been second only to Henry Ruggs’ 4.27 at this year’s combine and would rank just outside the 20 fastest ever at the combine.
That’s how you get a $60,000 offer to join an NFL team’s training camp after making just three more catches in college football than you or I did.