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INDIANAPOLIS — It was Halloween, and Trevor Penning was bored.
The Northern Iowa offensive lineman looked on Netflix and found “Saw” — a horror movie that an Associated Press movie reviewer called “vicious to no end” and “loaded with gruesome torture devices.”
“Watched it. It was pretty good,” Penning said Thursday at the NFL Combine. “I was like, ‘Alright, this is kind of fun to watch.’”
He then spent the team’s five-hour bus ride the next day watching “Saw II” and “Saw III.”
The gruesomeness of the three horror movies in 24 hours also is a metaphor for Penning’s play style that is now getting a national spotlight.
One reporter Thursday asked Penning what three words described his play style.
“Physical, nasty and” a third word a family-friendly newspaper can’t print.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the third word as “a spiteful or contemptible man often having some authority” with “slang” and “vulgar” italicized before it.
“That’s how football needs to be played,” Penning said. “You can’t go out there and be Mr. Nice Guy.”
That nastiness has helped the 6-foot-7, 310-pound offensive tackle earn high draft projections.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. recently ranked Penning as the 18th-best prospect in the 2022 draft class.
Almost every mock draft one can find has Penning going in the first round. An NFL.com mock draft from March 1 picked Penning to go 17th to the Los Angeles Chargers.
A CBS mock draft from March 2 has Penning going 29th to the Miami Dolphins.
If he goes in the first round, he’ll be the highest-picked UNI player in program history.
The Clear Lake native takes pride in being at the combine as an FCS player.
“It doesn’t matter where you play — FBS, FCS, Division III,” Penning said. “If you’re good, you’re good. And being able to show that is super awesome.”
Penning was far from the most obvious player to be on this stage. He had two Division I scholarship offers coming out of high school.
“I was a late-bloomer in high school,” Penning said. “Looking back on pictures I had, I was a twig.”
Neither of the two FBS programs in the state — Iowa and Iowa State — offered him, and they certainly weren’t the only ones to overlook Penning.
“They definitely made a mistake now,” Penning said. “It’s good to know that they kind of screwed up.”
By the time Penning finally “bulked up” as a senior in high school, Iowa and Iowa State “already pretty much locked up their recruiting class.”
“It was disappointing at first,” Penning said. “But you see at UNI, they’re producing NFL talent.”
Now, the UNI offensive lineman who loves horror movies appears to be eight weeks away becoming an NFL offensive lineman who loves horror movies.
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