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With draft over, check out where Penn State players headed in NFL, including free agents

JOE JULIANO
The Philadelphia Inquirer (TNS)
Penn State defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos (99) fights off a block by Buffalo offensive lineman Evin Ksiezarczyk (67) in the third quarter of an NCAA college football game in State College, Pa., on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)

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 9½ 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.

FILE - In this Oct. 19, 2019, file photo, Penn State wide receiver KJ Hamler (1) scores after catching a pass from quarterback Sean Clifford during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Michigan in State College, Pa. Hamler was chosen by the Denver Broncos in the second round of the NFL football draft Friday, April 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

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.

Saturday picks: Three more Penn State players were selected on Saturday.

Defensive back John Reid went in the fourth round to the Houston Texans, coached by former PSU head coach Bill O’Brien, who is entering his seventh season with the Texans. It marked the first time that he drafted a Penn State player.

Linebacker Cam Brown went in the sixth round to the New York Giants, and defensive tackle Robert Windsor was taken 10 picks later in the same round by the Indianapolis Colts.

Quarterback Tommy Stevens, who played at Penn State for three seasons before moving to Mississippi State as a graduate transfer, was a seventh-round pick of the New Orleans Saints.

The 5-foot-10, 187-pound Reid, who was the No. 141 overall selection, had his best season at Penn State in 2019, two years after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. He tied for the team lead with eight pass breakups and returned one of his two interceptions for a touchdown. Reid impressed at the NFL Combine with a 4.49-second clocking in the 40-yard dash and was timed at 3.97 seconds in the shuttle, fastest of any participant.

The 6-5, 233-pound Brown enjoyed his best season last year, finishing third on the team with 72 tackles in addition to 5½ tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries, and earning honorable mention All-Big Ten. He posted a pair of 10-tackle games, against Michigan and Buffalo. Brown impressed scouts at the combine with a 4.72-second 40-yard dash.

The 6-5, 290-pound Windsor, a third-team All-Big Ten player last year, made strong improvement from his arrival on campus in 2015 to his senior season. He led the Nittany Lions with eight quarterback hurries to go with five tackles for loss and 40 total tackles. He started all 26 of Penn State’s games his last two seasons.

At least five PSU players signed with teams as undrafted free agents. They are: linebacker Jan Johnson (Houston Texans), guard Steven Gonzalez (Arizona Cardinals), safety Garrett Taylor (Buffalo Bills), punter Blake Gillikin (New Orleans Saints) and tight end Nick Bowers (Las Vegas Raiders).