116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR FALLS — For decades, Northern Iowa football has developed and produced NFL level talent from its offensive line.
That was highlighted most recently with Trevor Penning becoming the program’s highest ever NFL Draft selection, going 19th overall in the first round to the New Orleans Saints.
And while Penning has received more attention and exposure than any of his predecessors, UNI Coach Mark Farley pointed out this week that before there was Penning, there was Chad Rinehart.
“Chad Rinehart deserves to be in the (UNI) Hall of Fame,” Farley said. “You all probably didn’t get to see him play, but you all got to see Trevor Penning play — he was the Trevor Penning of his era. He was on great football teams. He led those teams. He had a mean streak in him and he could bring a whole group of guys together to play with that mean streak.
“Then, you take the helmet off, he’s just a shy guy in the corner from Boone, Iowa.”
Rinehart played for the Panthers from 2004-2007 and alongside six other UNI alumni will be inducted into the university’s Hall of Fame this weekend.
Rinehart got his call to the hall earlier this summer from athletics director David Harris and admitted it was unexpected.
“It was really quite the surprise,” Rinehart said. “I was always hopeful it would come sometime, but certainly thought it was going to be more years down the road. Last year I was able to go in (to the Hall of Fame) with the 2005 team, so it wasn’t really something that I ever looked for was individual recognition.”
Before being selected by the Washington with the 96th overall pick in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft, Rinehart put together one of the most decorated careers by a UNI offensive lineman.
In 2005, ’06 and ’07 he was named first team All-Gateway Conference. In 2006 he earned second-team All-America honors and followed it up with first-team All-America honors as a senior in 2007.
His time at UNI also came during the program’s only national championship appearance in 2005. Rinehart said that team’s chemistry is what made the difference.
“You always think it’s talent this and talent that, but I don’t think there’s anything that separated that team talent wise from the others I played on,” he said. “A couple things that I recall from (that team) was the offense, defense and special teams all meshed well and just wanted to play for each other.
“It was just really the bond we had and just not wanting the season to end.”
His seven-year NFL career with Washington, the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and San Diego Chargers is now nearly a decade behind him.
Asked about his fondest NFL memories, he said not playing in the playoffs until his sixth year in the league when he was with the Chargers is something he’ll never forget.
Nowadays, in lieu of weightlifting, he finds himself hiking, biking, swimming and boating. Rinehart lives in Cedar Falls with his wife, Justine, and their three young children.
“I’m looking forward to this weekend. I’m excited,” Rinehart said. “I reached out to a bunch of the linemen I played with and am really excited to see some of the guys that are going to be able to make it back.”