A week from the draft, Trevor Penning is in a holding pattern

The interviews, workouts, combine, and tryouts are all over for former Newman Catholic prep and UNI star Trevor Penning; now it’s a waiting game.

Just after 10:00 AM each day, Trevor Penning heads to Newman Catholic High School in Mason City to work out. Penning, a former multi-sport star at the high school, is a week away from hearing his name in the National Football League draft. Penning is known to the students, but with him working out during the school day, they don’t often cross paths, “I think I’ve seen someone in there like twice,” Penning said while talking with Coloff Media last week. “Both of those times, I only took pictures with the students.” 

While in high school, Penning was far from his size today, getting set to play pro football. He explained his high school size was around 6’3″-6’4″ and between 210 and 220 pounds as a junior. Now, he’s recently been registered at 6’7″ 325 – and running a 4.89 40-yard dash, which is better than the average quarterback. Tom Brady, considered one of the greatest athletes of all time, ran a 5.28, while Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning ran a similar time to Penning.

Penning ran that time at the NFL combine, an experience not many athletes get and one Penning will remember. “Pretty much what I expected, many interviews, medicals, and waiting around. The last day is when you do all the stuff you’ve been waiting for, all the running and fun stuff,” Penning said about the draft combine held in Indianapolis last month.

A former teammate of Penning is current Buffalo Bills offensive lineman Spencer Brown, who, like Penning, came from a small town in Iowa and now is living his dream of playing in the NFL. Brown, of Lenox, Iowa, was drafted by the Bills in the third round last year. Penning is expected to go higher and could possibly hear his name in the first round, something not many Iowans have recently experienced. Former Hawkeye offensive lineman Brandon Scherff,  a Denison, Iowa native, went 5th overall in 2015 to Washington.

As far as the immediate KIOW listening area, the last drafted player was Ryan Hannam of Saint Ansgar in 2002; Mike Banks, a former NFL TE, was also drafted in 2002; he was born in Mason City but attended high school at Ogden. Mike Stensrud of Lake Mills was drafted in the second round in 1979 by Houston Oilers. “I’m just trying to go as high as possible, Penning said. “(My agent) is talking with teams every day just trying to learn more and see what their draft board looks like. There are probably many things that go on behind the scenes, but I know he’s working”, Penning said.

Penning learned early that football is just football and not to worry about recruiting rankings. He was an unvalued small-town Iowa kid who worked hard to get where he is now. He’s using that same approach now, even when the spotlights on him. A spotlight that’s much brighter when you’re a projected first-round draft pick, far from coming out of high school to play at an FCS school. “I learned to put your head down and not worry about the outside noise; they’ll find you if you’re good enough.” Finding articles about Trevor is as easy as typing his name into google – good and bad, they’re there. A simple Twitter search of his name resulted in anything from fans wanting him to be picked by their team or not. Including one fan who recently wrote, “Who wants to join the Trevor Penning hate club.” For Penning, he says those things he just blocks out, “I don’t look into the media stuff too much, I work on just getting better every day; not letting any of that stuff bother me or affect me.” It’s not all bad. One fan wrote, “Trevor Penning is one of the most overrated players in this draft class.”

Most mock drafts have Penning going in the first round, though the team is tough to track down. Many teams need an offensive lineman. Penning is expected to play tackle and, as a rookie, likely right tackle.  The Chargers and Bears (trade from the Eagles) are good fits for him, and they draft back-to-back at #17 and #18. The Seahawks, Jets, Patriots, Chiefs, and Ravens could take an offensive lineman in the draft and are all possible locations. The Saints and Bears traded with the Eagles to get picks #18 and #19. Should Penning fall past the Chargers at #17, one of those trades could’ve been with the expectation to snag the North Iowa native.

Besides playing in the NFL, Penning has one other dream – he wants to block Aaron Donald. The former first-round pick of the St. Louis (Los Angeles) Rams, Donald has since won a Super Bowl, three times been named NFL Defensive Player of the Year, seven times named first-team All-Pro, eight times named to a Pro Bowl, and part of the NFL All-Decade Team (the 2010s). “You’re going to laugh at this,” Penning explained when asked what defensive player he’d like to lineup against. He continued by saying, “Just because you could say you blocked Aaron Donald, that’s a lot of bragging rights.” 

Next Thursday, Penning will watch the draft with his closest family and friends. He wasn’t invited to attend the draft in Las Vegas. Still, the NFL has asked to have a computer camera on Penning and his family’s watch party, presumably to catch their reaction.




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