Q&A With Ethan Kilmer

When Penn State revealed its projected depth chart for Saturday's season-opener, there was only one real surprise on offense. Ethan Kilmer, a senior walk-on who never played football in high school and who played defense at PSU as a junior, is listed as a starting wide receiver. What is Kilmer's story? We caught up with him for a one-on-one at PSU Media Day earlier this month.

Kilmer was a standout in basketball and track at Wyalusing (Pa.) Valley High, but did not play football at the school. He initially attended Shippensburg to pursue a collegiate track career, but transferred to Penn State in 2003.

FOS: You’re a little bit of a different story because you didn’t play football in high school. What got you into the walk-on program here at Penn State? What made you decide to play college football?

Kilmer: Initially, I transferred to Penn State [from Shippensburg] for the major, for kinesiology. Then, I think it was just the challenge, trying something different. I always wondered what it would have been like if I had continued with football in high school. I got into lifting weights and trained my body a little bit more. It was a big goal for me. I just wanted to do it.

FOS: You obviously have to have a lot of athleticism to step on the field and play on special teams here having not played in high school. What has it been like for you to know that you’ve achieved your goal and made it at this level?

Kilmer: I guess for me, I’m always looking toward the next goal and the next goal. But it was definitely a very sweet thing. It was something that I never really expected. I knew that I wanted to be here, but I never really knew what would happen with it, so it was a very sweet thing for me.

FOS: You’ve had a chance to work at wide receiver since the spring. How are you feeling? Are you comfortable with that?

Kilmer: Yeah, I really like the transition. It reminds me of playing basketball. One-on-one with a safety or a corner, and I can use my speed and quickness and hands.

FOS: Do they have you working on the outside then instead of the slot to take advantage of your speed?

Kilmer: Yes. It’s been a little tough sometimes because a lot of the other guys have that intuitive feel for the game and I’m still trying to achieve that. I’m still trying to get that natural feel.

FOS: And trying to learn a new position at the college level has to be difficult.

Kilmer: It is very difficult, especially against the secondary that we have. We have an excellent secondary. Our whole defense is excellent, which is good for us, but at the same time, it can be very frustrating.

FOS: The wide receiver corps is very young with little game experience. How has that battle against the secondary been going?

Kilmer: It’s going better than I think anyone could have expected for such young guys. When I was a freshman in college, I don’t think I had the maturity that they have right now. I think if we keep working through camp … everyone’s making strides every day, so it should be something to look forward to.

FOS: What about Michael Robinson? It’s been said he has improved mechanics and looks like a different quarterback this year. Have you seen that kind of improvement?

Kilmer: Definitely. I think as he has slipped into the quarterback role more than the X-factor role, I think it’s really allowed him to come into his own as far as throwing the ball and understanding what’s going on. I think he’s really improving.

FOS: And it seems like he is the unquestioned leader in the huddle.

Kilmer: Definitely.

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