Four Nittany Lions Selected on Day Three of NFL Draft

DETROIT, Mich. – Penn State football tight end Theo Johnson (4th round, 107th overall, New York Giants), offensive lineman Hunter Nourzad (5th round, 159th overall, Kansas City Chiefs), cornerback Daequan Hardy (6th round, 219th overall, Buffalo Bills) and cornerback Kalen King (7th round, 255th overall, Green Bay Packers) were selected on the third day of the NFL Draft on Saturday.
Final Draft Notes:

  • The Nittany Lions finished the 2024 NFL Draft with eight selections.
  • Penn State has had five or more draft picks in seven-straight years, dating back to 2018. It is Penn State's longest streak of years with at least five picks since a string of seven years from 1978-84. The Nittany Lions had five or more draft picks for the 33rd time in school history.
  • The Nittany Lions have a total of 46 players who have been drafted in the last seven NFL drafts, the most in a seven-year span for the program since 1991-97 (45 picks).
  • Penn State is one of three schools that has had a player selected among the first three rounds of the NFL Draft in 19-straight years, joining USC and LSU.
  • The Nittany Lions had three offensive linemen drafted for the first time since 1996 (four selected). It marks the seventh time in school history Penn State has had at least three linemen selected and the first time under Franklin.
  • Three Penn State offensive linemen went in the first five rounds of the NFL Draft this year for the first time since 1993 (Round 2, Pick 51 - Todd Rucci - New England; Round 3, Pick 57 - John Gerak – Minnesota; Round 5, Pick 128 - Greg Huntington – Washington).
  • Penn State has had an offensive lineman selected in the last four drafts, joining Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma and Wisconsin as the only other schools to do so.
  • A total of 389 Nittany Lions have been selected all-time in the NFL Draft, which ranks seventh among Division I institutions. Penn State has had 54 players selected since James Franklin's arrival to the program in 2014, including 25 taken on the first two days of the draft.
  • Penn State has had five tight ends drafted since 2015, tied for the Big Ten lead during that span.
  • This marks the first time Penn State has had two defensive ends taken in the same draft since 2021, and the third time in PSU history and second time under head coach James Franklin.
  • Penn State had multiple defensive backs selected for the third-straight year. It marked the 10th time in school history with multiple defensive backs drafted and the fifth time in the Franklin era.

Theo Johnson
Johnson is Penn State's 23rd tight end selected in the NFL Draft. He is the fifth tight end drafted in the James Franklin era.
He is the 16th Nittany Lion to be selected by the New York Giants all-time.
"I couldn't be happier for Theo and his family," said Franklin. "The New York Giants gained a special athlete, teammate and leader. Theo brings an immense amount of size and speed to the tight end position, making him an excellent NFL prospect. He played in 44 career games for us with 29 starts and brought great leadership to our organization as a team captain. He was an All-Big Ten honoree and finished his career with 12 touchdown receptions, third all-time for a Penn State tight end. Theo will be an outstanding representative of Penn State Football on NFL Sundays."
"I am fired up for Theo and his family," said co-offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Ty Howle. "The New York Giants just drafted a really special player whose size, speed and athleticism will be a problem for NFL defenses. He has a high football IQ and is determined to be great. He stepped up as a leader for our room and this program. I really appreciate Theo's commitment to the ACES and the Penn State Football program. He is going to have a great NFL career, and I wish him the best."
Theo Johnson · TE · 6-6 · 260 · Windsor, Ont. · Holy Names Catholic

  • Voted All-Big Ten honorable mention by the coaches and media in 2023.
  • Earned the team's Lion's Pride Outstanding Senior Player Award.
  • Was named a Mackey Award Semifinalist.
  • In his Penn State career, Johnson had 77 receptions for 938 yards and 12 touchdowns.
  • His 12 career touchdown receptions are tied 17th all-time at Penn State.
  • Johnson ranks third all-time among Penn State tight ends with 12 career touchdown receptions.
  • He had 14 career 20-yard receptions.
  • The Penn State tight end room has combined for 16 receiving touchdowns, most of any FBS team in the 2023 season. PSU was the only FBS team with multiple tight ends owning 7+ receiving touchdowns in 2023.
  • He hauled in 34 receptions for 341 yards and seven touchdowns in the 2023 season.
  • His seven receiving touchdowns are tied third in a season among Penn State tight ends.
  • Johnson tied fourth in the Big Ten in touchdown receptions.
  • He had a career-high six receptions for 42 yards against Iowa and a 34-yard grab at Ohio State.
  • Johnson hauled in four catches for 66 yards and two scores against UMass.
  • He made a 16-yard touchdown grab against Indiana, a 2-yard touchdown catch at Maryland and an 8-yard touchdown against Michigan.
  • The Ontario native had a team-high four receptions for 59 yards, including a 21-yard touchdown, at Michigan State. He added a 22-yard reception.
  • Hauled in a 2-yard touchdown reception against Ole Miss.

Hunter Nourzad
Nourzad is Penn State's 22nd center (90th offensive lineman) selected in the NFL Draft. He is the ninth offensive lineman drafted in the James Franklin era. He is the 11th Nittany Lion to be selected by the Kansas City Chiefs.
"I am thrilled for Hunter and this opportunity he has earned with the Kansas City Chiefs," said Franklin. "He is a smart football player who is intentional in everything that he does on and off the field. Hunter is a true professional and is respected by his teammates and coaches. He is a gritty and tough athlete who will be able to play any of the interior offensive line positions in the NFL. Hunter proved impressive academically as well, earning his MBA from Penn State. The Chiefs are adding a man of great character to their organization, and I cannot wait to see Hunter continue to grow in his football career."
"Hunter Nourzad is a football coach's dream," said offensive line coach Phil Trautwein. "He's focused, determined and he takes pride in everything he does. His preparation is second to none. And he's a very talented football player. Hunter joined our team in 2022 and made an immediate impact on our program. We tasked him with playing center in 2023; he took the challenge head on and earned his way to becoming an All-Big Ten honoree. He would thrive in any NFL building, and he's a great fit for the Kansas City Chiefs. I couldn't be happier for him."
Hunter Nourzad · OL · 6-3 · 320 · Marietta, Ga. · The Walker School

  • Voted second-team All-Big Ten by the coaches and media in 2023.
  • Shared the team's Tim Shaw Thrive Award with Johnny Dixon.
  • Named the team's Nittany Lion Club Award winner, given to a senior with the highest GPA.
  • Tabbed All-Big Ten honorable mention by the coaches and media in 2022.
  • Owned 41 collegiate starts and 44 career appearances.
  • Started all 13 games at center this season and had 21 starts over the last two seasons as a Nittany Lion.
  • Earned his engineering degree from Cornell and his Master of Business Administration degree from Penn State.
  • According to Pro Football Focus, gave up just one sack on 416 pass plays.
  • Among Power Five centers, Nourzad's 77.2 run-blocking grade ranked sixth in the country (min. 300 run-blocking snaps) according to PFF.
  • Helped Penn State to tally at least 400 yards in six games, including a season-best 586 yards at Michigan State.
  • Penn State rushed for over 200 yards in five games and threw for at least 200 yards in eight games.
  • The Nittany Lions had multiple rushing touchdowns in eight games this season.

Daequan Hardy
Hardy and King became the 36th and 37th Penn State defensive backs to be selected in the NFL Draft and the 11th and 12th defensive backs selected in the James Franklin era.
Hardy is the 20th Nittany Lion to be selected by the Buffalo Bills. He joins Penn State Football Lettermen KJ Hamler, Austin Johnson, DaQuan Jones and Connor McGovern in Buffalo.
"The Buffalo Bills are adding a smart, fast and athletic football player in Daequan Hardy," said Franklin. "Daequan has always played to his strengths, and it really impacted our football program in a positive way. He thrived at the nickel position for us, but also showed his ability to play on the perimeter. He is an elite returner in the kicking game and was a difference maker for our special teams unit. He played in 46 games for us and was an All-Big Ten honoree last season as a cornerback and a return specialist. Daequan will always be remembered for being the first player in Penn State history to have two punt returns for a touchdown in a single game. I am extremely happy for Daequan for earning his Penn State degree and really look forward to seeing him succeed in the NFL."
"I am so happy for Daequan Hardy earning this opportunity with the Buffalo Bills," said associate head coach and cornerbacks coach Terry Smith. "He is a player who had to work against his size when he got here, but has so many skillsets that allowed him to overcome his size and be the special player that he is. He has elite speed which not only made him one of the best defensive backs in our room, but also a weapon in the return game, as he was an All-Big Ten honoree as a cornerback and a returner. He is a difference maker and will be fun to watch in Buffalo."
Daequan Hardy · CB · 5-9 · 178 · Pittsburgh, Pa. · Penn Hills

  • Earned second-team All-America honors from CBS Sports as a punt returner.
  • Named second-team All-Big Ten by the coaches and media as a punt returner.
  • Tabbed third-team All-Big Ten as a cornerback by the coaches.
  • Appeared in 48 games at Penn State, making five starts.
  • Finished tied for fourth in school history in punt return touchdowns (2) and seventh in punt return average (14.6).
  • As a punt returner, Hardy led the country with two punt return touchdowns.
  • Hardy paced the Big Ten and ranked fifth in the nation with a 14.6 punt return average.
  • On his first career punt return, Hardy had a 56-yard return for a touchdown in the first quarter against UMass. He added a 68-yard punt return for a touchdown in the third quarter, becoming the first player in school history to record multiple punt returns for a touchdown in a single game.
  • Since 2000, Hardy became the 25th FBS player, and second Big Ten player, to return two punts returns for touchdowns in a game.
  • Tied for the school record for most punt return touchdowns in a season (2), joining Larry Johnson (2001), Bruce Branch (1999), O.J. McDuffie (1991) and Jimmy Cefalo (1977).
  • Owned 60 tackles (40 solo), 7.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, five interceptions, 20 pass breakups and a forced fumble as a Nittany Lion.
  • In 2023, Hardy had 22 tackles (12 solo), three tackles for loss, a sack, two interceptions and seven pass breakups.
  • According to Pro Football Focus, Hardy had six forced incompletions when targeted in coverage this season.
  • At Illinois, he notched an interception in the first quarter.
  • He picked off a pass in the fourth quarter against Northwestern and returned it 34 yards for his longest career interception return.
  • Hardy broke up a career-high three passes, all in the first quarter, at Ohio State, and added six tackles and a half-tackle for loss.
  • He registered a solo sack against Indiana.
  • Posted a career-high seven tackles, including five in the first half, against Ole Miss.

Kalen King
King is the 15th Nittany Lion to be selected by the Packers. He joins Penn State Football Lettermen Sean Clifford and Rasheed Walker in Green Bay.
"We are so proud of Kalen being selected by the Green Bay Packers," said Franklin. "During the 2022 season, he was a second-team All-American and was third in the nation in passes defended. He was a two-time All-Big Ten honoree for us and played in 38 games over a three-year span. He brings a unique skillset to the professional level which will allow him to contribute to the defensive and special teams units right away. Kalen will represent Penn State Football extremely well on Sundays."
"The Green Bay Packers are getting a tough and physical player in Kalen King," said Smith. "I have really enjoyed coaching Kalen these last three seasons. His preparation off the field, watching film and in the weight room, is what has made him the football player he is. Kalen does his job and shuts down his area on the field. I am thrilled for him and his family for earning this opportunity to play at the next level with the Packers."
Kalen King · CB · 5-11 · 190 · Detroit, Mich. · Cass Tech

  • Voted second-team All-Big Ten by the coaches and media in 2023.
  • Garnered third-team All-Big Ten honors by the coaches and media in 2022.
  • Named second-team All-America by the Walter Camp Football Foundation and third-team All-America by Pro Football Focus after the 2022 season.
  • Helped Penn State to finish second in the country in total defense (247.6), third in scoring defense (13.5) and lead the country in first downs allowed (181).
  • PSU ranked seventh in passing yards allowed (172.1), 11th in pass efficiency defense (116.44) and 12th in takeaways (24).
  • This season, he helped Penn State to hold four opponents to 60 or less passing yards.
  • Over the last two years, Penn State helped opponents under a 50 completion percentage in nine games and under 10 completions in five games.
  • In his PSU career, King had 82 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, three interceptions, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and 25 pass breakups.
  • In 2023, he posted 29 tackles (20 solo), 1.5 tackles for loss and two pass breakups.
  • The Michigan native recorded four tackles and a pass breakup at Illinois.
  • He had six tackles and a career-high 1.5 tackles for loss at Ohio State.
  • King registered three tackles and a pass breakup against Indiana.

Penn State opens the 2024 campaign against West Virginia on Saturday, August 31.
For information on joining the Nittany Lion Club and ticket information for the 2024 Penn State Football season presented by PSECU, as well as club seating in Beaver Stadium, fans can visit, or call 1-800-NITTANY weekdays from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.