Northern Iowa is no stranger to sending talent to the NFL. In fact, since 1966, the Panthers have seen 17 alumni drafted into the league. Even those who never heard their name called have still represented the program well. One of the greatest undrafted quarterbacks to ever play was Kurt Warner and he too once called UNI his home. However, there’s one achievement that no Panther has ever accomplished: becoming a first-round selection. Trevor Penning, however, may be the best chance the program has had in a long time to finally make that happen.
The 325 pound Penning (who stands at a towering 6’7”) is one of the more promising offensive line talents in this year’s draft class and he’s already made his fair share of history for UNI. Last fall he was the only offensive linemen to be named to the Walter Payton Award watchlist (an award given to the best offensive player annually in the FCS). He started in all 12 games in 2021 and his dominant play in each one earned him an invite to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL earlier this year; the first such-invite a Northern Iowa player has ever received.
Penning continued to turn heads there and at the NFL Combine where he ran a 4.89 40-yard dash, an impressively fast time for someone of his size and build. He also put up the fastest time among all offensive lineman in the three-cone drill when he came across at 7.25 seconds. Pair that speed with his ability to bully opposing defenders and he’s a real standout. NFL analysts have already taken notice...
Is it all enough to be one of the first 32 players picked? It’s definitely conceivable. There are several teams that need to bolster their fronts as they head into this season and Penning seems to fit the NFL mold to a tee. Everything he’s shown up to this point exhibits why he’d be a welcome addition to essentially any line he joins. He’s already met with the Patriots and several others are rumored to be highly interested.
ESPN’s NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper said of Penning, “He was rarely challenged [in college]. He is a road grader in the run game who can plow over defenders... He makes things look easy. Yes, it’s a big leap to the NFL, but I think he has the traits to be an early starter.”
Only time will tell now if he nabs that coveted opening-night selection but one thing is for sure: first round or not, Penning is absolutely going to help any team that calls his name in Vegas.