Penn State Football

How former walk-on Dan Chisena became the Blue-White Game’s feel-good story

Team celebrates Chisena’s scholarship announcement after touchdown

Penn State wide receiver Dan Chisena finds out after his touchdown that he had been awarded a scholarship during the Blue-White game on April 13, 2019. Coach James Franklin talks about Chisena after the game.
Up Next
Penn State wide receiver Dan Chisena finds out after his touchdown that he had been awarded a scholarship during the Blue-White game on April 13, 2019. Coach James Franklin talks about Chisena after the game.

Dan Chisena had no idea.

No idea that he would be awarded a scholarship Saturday in front of thousands at Beaver Stadium. No idea that he would become the feel-good story of the Blue-White Game. Sitting in his interview stall postgame, the former walk-on wide receiver kept shaking his head, smiling ear to ear.

“I don’t really know how to put it into words,” Chisena said. “I’m very blessed to be in the position I’m in right now.”

It all went down with seconds left in the third quarter. Chisena, a former high school track star, bolted down the home sideline and — thanks to a minor push-off — created separation from freshman cornerback Keaton Ellis. Chisena hauled in Will Levis’ bomb and waltzed into the end zone for a 59-yard touchdown.

Chisena celebrated, getting a hug from guard CJ Thorpe and dapping up Levis. But in a matter of seconds, his teammates were leaping on top of him. As the wideout jogged back to the bench, Penn State head coach James Franklin got on the Beaver Stadium mic and bellowed, “With that touchdown catch, Chisena, you’re on full scholarship!”

Chisena immediately looked to sky and put his hands on his head in disbelief. The Downingtown East grad was dogpiled by Thorpe, Levis, Ricky Slade, Blake Gillikin and a host of teammates. The crowd offered a standing ovation. KJ Hamler yelled, “Let’s go!” before Franklin had a chance to embrace the walk-on.

Freshman wide receiver Jahan Dotson said after the game that it was “the highlight of my day.” And it was certainly a moment Chisena will never forget.

“It didn’t feel real,” he added. “It was very special.”

Now, this isn’t the first time Chisena has been on scholarship as a Penn State athlete. After spending the 2015 season redshirting with football, Chisena moved over to the Penn State track & field team. The speedster said they lured him away with a 70 percent partial scholarship, and he had success with the Nittany Lions. Chisena was a part of an outdoor Big Ten title in 2017 and competed at nationals in both indoor and outdoor relays.

“I loved my time over there. I miss those guys,” Chisena said. “But there was a pull for me to give football another try. ... I’ve been playing football since the third grade. I grew up watching Penn State football. I don’t know. I felt like when I left, I didn’t end it the way I wanted to.”

Since returning, Chisena has impressed. Franklin complimented him throughout the spring and did so again Saturday in his postgame press conference. The head coach called Chisena “mature, smart and strong” and, of course, brought up Chisena’s No. 1 asset — his speed.

“He’s one of the fastest guys on our team. Legitimately before he left, he ran in the 4.3s,” Franklin added. “He’s catching the ball confidently. He’s a guy who we always kinda had bright hopes for. And he had a really good, consistent spring. ... Obviously he has a lot of work to do from a technique and fundamentals standpoint. But we like where he’s at.”

And so does Chisena.

  Comments