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SDSU's Penny ready to step out of shadow

Mon, Jan 08, 2018

Reese's Senior Bowl: Rashaad, it's been quite a career for you and finished it off with five straight 200-yard games. Have you been able to rest your legs yet?
Rashaad Penny: Yeah, I mean I been doing a little resting. I had a couple weeks off and I'm just getting back into it getting ready for the next stage in life. 

RSB: You had 15.8 yards per carry, 4 touchdowns in the Armed Forces Bowl. What did you take away from that final game and the great individual performance but losing ultimately?
Penny: I definitely enjoyed the experience. The experience of going out with my last bowl game of the season, the last of my career. It was definitely fun, it was a hostile environment. I loved being a part of it. It was exciting. I just had to play one last game as an Aztec and it was my best and unfortunately we didn't come out with the win so I’m kind of disappointed but other than that it was a great feeling just going out there and playing my one last game. 

RBS: You get one actual last game here at the Reese's Senior Bowl. This is your last impression on-the-field and your first impression off-the-field. You get an opportunity to meet with all of the NFL decision makers. People are going to get to know you for the first time. What is the type of person that Rashaad Penny is that's about to be shown for the first time?
Penny: I'm not a talker. I do everything by example. That's how I was raised and brought up. I'm gonna work, that's the one thing you can count on me, I'm going to work. I have no excuses and once I know I do something wrong, I'm right back on it. I'm very talkative with the coaches. I love seeing how they explain things and I'll be in their ear the whole time like they'll be in mine. It's gonna be a fun experience. I'm excited because only so many people get these opportunities. 

RSB: What was your reaction when you found out you were going to get the opportunity?
Penny: I was definitely excited. When you see something like that, that's an individual thing. On the inside, you're really excited. On the outside, you just gotta, you can't really let it out as much. It's an exciting deal. Before the season, I always said I wanted to accomplish the same things that Donnel did here at State and I'm on the path to doing the same thing. I'm just blessed and I'm thankful for it.

RSB: Donnel Pumphrey of course was in the Reese’s Senior Bowl this past year and now with the Philadelphia Eagles. Recap what it was like to be with him because you were one of the best duos in all of college football when you two were together. Then he goes to the NFL and has a season-ending injury. Were you able to talk to him when you found about his injury in the NFL?
Penny: Oh yeah, most definitely. I think he's probably still one of the greatest backs that'll go down in college football. He plays with a chip on his shoulder and that's the best part about him. He's a leader emotionally. He never showed it but everybody knew because of what he can do. Just watching him play excelled my game to the next level. I honestly picked up a lot of things from him going on to my senior year. Me and DJ have a really great relationship. We talk daily. He gives me advice and tips. I just take them in and I just listen to him like he's the brother to me. It's all love between us and I’m excited about his future because he's a great running back and I know it can only get better from here. 

RSB: How about your real brother, Elijhaa Penny with the Arizona Cardinals? What is having him be a professional football player done for you?
Penny: Definitely motivated and left me up. After watching what he went through to where he's at now is amazing and it's definitely a blessing. For him to go through a juco and then we not knowing what college he's gonna go to and then he finally gets a chance to get a shot in the NFL just to be a part of a roster. And then him making the 53 is what really excited me. It just shows me that there's a chance and there's possibilities out there, you just gotta work hard and get it and that's what he's described as. He's a hard worker and he'll give it his all. That's what he did to be on that 53-man. That's really my motivation and that's who I look up to daily. We really don't communicate as much because he knows what I’m doing right now and what I'm trying to get to - I'm trying to get on the level as him now - so he knows it's all work from here. And then probably after this, the draft and stuff, we'll talk even more. 

RSB: You know what to expect moving forward because of Elijhaa but you mentioned he had to go the juco route and didn't know where he was gonna end up. You didn't have to do that. You had multiple offers. You drew interest from Alabama and other big schools. Why was it San Diego State?
Penny: When I went on the visit, I felt something from Coach (Rocky) Long that probably other recruits didn't. I felt like he wanted to build a powerhouse and their school relied on a lot of great running backs and they had a lot of great running backs before me and DJ - Ronnie Hillman, Marshall Faulk, Adam Muema - a lot of great backs. I just wanted to follow the tradition. Coach Long, I believed in his system and I took in everything and ever since then, he built a dynasty over here. I was excited to be a part of it and I experienced it first-hand and it was amazing. I'm just blessed to be in this situation. 

RSB: You're coming to Mobile, Alabama for the Reese's Senior Bowl. This is an Alabama-fan heavy part of the country. When people say you're a player that drew interest from Alabama, they want to know more about you. What was it that was interesting about Alabama even though you chose not to go there?
Penny: The culture. The way they play football. That SEC football. The culture, they play such hard-nosed football. Nick Saban is a great coach and I think he does an amazing job. Playing under a coach like that would be amazing. I got a lot of family out there in Alabama so they're big fans - I personally don't know which team they root for out there, I'm guessing the Crimson Tide - but you know, it was just based on me staying over here on the west coast with my parents, my family. I really don't know. I like Alabama. I really like what they do and I wish them luck in the national championship. 

RSB: Speaking of the national championship. I saw you tweeted that you had Oklahoma. So, since you tweeted your pick for that game, do you have a prediction for this upcoming Alabama-Georgia game?
Penny: I like Georgia. They have the two-headed, three-headed monster at running back. I think they're amazing backs and Alabama right now is kind of beat up on the defense. I have to go with Georgia. They got a great running back system and then their freshman quarterback is doing amazing. It's gonna be a great game, I think. 

RSB: You sound like a professional college football analyst here. What's your major in school? What are you wanting to do after football?
Penny: I wanna broadcast! I wanna be on ESPN calling live games. That's what I want to do after football. 

RSB: You got four years of college football under your belt so far with many more years professionally ahead. You got four years at San Diego State because you returned for your senior year. You could've left, why did you return?
Penny: Because I wanted to make a name for myself. I feel like nobody really knew who I was. Staying at San Diego State and build another winning culture, another winning season will maybe get my name a little more out there. And just to show people that I can probably do the same things that DJ's done. Last year, when juniors declare, I've seen a lot of tweets where some people said San Diego State isn't going to be the same because of DJ. That motivated me and pushed me to work hard in the offseason and just to prove to people last year that I tried to do the same things as him or even possibly better. It's a competition between me and him so I just wanted to show the world that I can do the same thing. 

RSB: You did get your name out there a lot more. Everyone knows who Rashaad Penny is now. He's the nation's leading rusher. 2,248 yards, 25 total touchdowns. Then you're not in the discussion for the Heisman Trophy in the mainstream media and you're not a Doak Walker Award finalist. What did you think about it?
Penny: Not at all. I stayed upbeat and I stayed the person I still am. Smiling to this day. Excited about my opportunity to play college football. Coming into the season, when I have a head coach like Rocky Long, who tells me straight-up you're not going to win the Doak Walker Award but you're the best running back in my eyes is probably the award right there. But awards don't define who I am. I've been like this for forever. I'm excited for the guys who were voted in that category and I think they're amazing players. Awards doesn't define who I am. I'm just glad to play the game that I love each and every day healthy.

RSB: You seem to have a ton of personality. I mentioned you had 25 total touchdowns. The NFL has relaxed those touchdown celebration rules a little bit, Rashaad. Are we going to see some personality and some celebrations with you in the future?
Penny: I mean, we'll see! I gotta get in my comfort zone. Gotta get in your comfort zone. I think that's where you gotta find it in the NFL. Most guys already have it but I can't wait. We will see, man, I'm excited. It's going to be a fun time. 

RSB: You're comfort zone weight-wise is what? You fluctuate in that 220-230 range. What's your comfort zone weight-wise?
Penny: I'm honestly trying to get down to 210. I'm right now at 226. I'm slowly making progress. That's what I wanna get, maybe 210. 

RSB: What about as a kick returner? Is that part of your comfort zone, too? Is that something you'd want to continue doing?
Penny: Oh yeah, most definitely. I felt like I had a real good knack for it. I hear a lot of people say I can probably do some Devin Hester things. That's the dude that I look up because I always watch his returns before games just to see how he excites the crowd or just energizes or motivates the team. So I try to do the same thing. I think I can probably do some things on kickoff return in the NFL. 

RSB: As a senior, you had a career-high 289 carries. Does your body feel any different after the season?
Penny: Not at all. I feel like I could stay play a few more games. I feel great. I feel amazing. I couldn’t be in as good a position as I'm in right now so I'm excited about what the future holds. I got a few more days of recovering and then I'll be right back at it. 

RSB: I keep going back to that Nevada game when you set a school-record of 429 all-purpose yards in that game. I read that your grandfather had passed away prior to that game and you found out about it that morning.
Penny: It means the world. My grandfather was like another dad. He was always around. He was always around. He was an amazing person, had the greatest heart. He really didn't care about him the majority of the time. He always cared about us. It was heartbreaking to know. The crazy thing was I wasn't supposed to find out until after the game but my oldest brother Elijhaa, he couldn't keep it in, so he told me before the game. I played the game with a heavy heart and my teammates comforted me and the coaches and the fans did an amazing job. 

RSB: Seems like you've got a supportive brother from your grandfather to your brother. How about your parents? Especially your mom. I heard you had some homesickness as a freshman and almost didn't end up having the type of career that you had.
Penny: Yeah, almost. Almost didn't make it at San Diego State but my mom put the foot down like most moms do and said "hey you're staying here." I'm glad that I stayed here. I don't know where I'd be if I didn't. I'm thankful and I'm blessed for my mom but especially my dad as well. He played a huge role. I'm just thankful for her, she's done an amazing job throughout my life and she's gonna continue to do that along with my dad. They're really the only two people I really look up to. 

RSB: We look forward to hosting you and your family too, what's the thing you're most looking forward to when you get here?
Penny: Definitely being around the different type of guys that are going to be there - the different players. And then getting a chance to talk with the NFL coaches and just learning what they do daily in a NFL practice. It's gonna be fun and I'm excited. Just seeing how the environment is around there. I can't wait, it's going to be fun. 

RSB: You're going to experience it with two of your San Diego State teammates, especially your fullback Nick Bawden. Tell me a little bit about him and then Kameron Kelly is your roommate, right?
Penny: Yeah, Kelly is my roommate. On Nick Bawden, there's so many things you can describe about him. He's an amazing person. He's probably one of the best football players on our team last year. He's done an amazing job. Just creating paths and him being so athletic as a fullback leaping over people and jumping. I think he's done an amazing job in his career at San Diego State and definitely went out the right way because he's an amazing leader and everybody looked up to him. I looked up to him. He was the very focal point of our team. He was always sound. I think he's gonna do an amazing job in the future that he has and I can't wait to see him in the Senior Bowl as well. Hopefully, he's paving ways for me again so we can get to have that one moment one last time. And then Kameron was my roommate back at San Diego for three years. That's a guy that I got really close with. He's a brother as well. I'm excited to see him go along in his future as well. He's done amazing. He's an amazing guy. I think he's got big things coming his way too. I'm excited to see both of them in the game.