Offensive tackle Trevor Penning became the first Northern Iowa player to be selected in the first round when the Saints chose him 19th overall on Thursday night in Las Vegas. He is also the second UNI offensive lineman to be taken in the draft in as many years with Spencer Brown going in the third round last year.
The 325-pound, 6’7” Clear Lake, Iowa native was the only offensive lineman named as a finalist for the Walter Payton Award, presented to the national offensive player of the year this past season.
For his play this season, Penning was awarded with All-America nods from theWalter Camp FCS All-America Team, HERO Sports’ FCS All-American First Team Offense, the 2021 Associated Press All-America Football Team, the FCS ADA 2021 All-America Team, the Stats Perform FCS All-America Team, the 2021 AFCA FCS Coaches’ All-America Team, the Athlon FCS All-America team, and the Phil Steele FCS All-America first team offense.
Penning was also Northern Iowa’s first player to receive a Senior Bowl invite, where he cemented his spot as arguably the best tackle in this draft.
Northern Iowa’s offensive line allowed just 36 sacks and a loss of 231 yards in 2021 and went 25-for-30 on red zone attempts-scores. The Panthers had decent success thanks in part to Penning’s protection with 1,686 rushing yards and 2,679 passing yards. They also finished ninth in FCS and second in the Missouri Vallley for third down conversion pct defense with 30.5% and fifth in the nation and first in the Missouri Vallley for fourth down conversion pct defense with 28.6%.
At the NFL Combine, Penning ran a 4.89 40-yard dash and put up the fastest time among all offensive lineman in the three-cone drill when he came across at 7.25 seconds. Based on his combination of size, speed, and strength, It’s hard to imagine Penning not getting an opportunity to start in New Orleans early in his career.