Rashaad Penny, the former Norwalk High football standout who will graduate from San Diego State University in a few weeks, never expected to be selected in the first round of the 2018 National Football League draft. In fact, on Apr. 26, the first day of the draft, he had gone to workout at 24-Hour Fitness in Cerritos before doing some shopping for little things to decorate his house in anticipation of getting that call the next day.
But sometimes the best things happen when you least expect it and Penny was selected by the Seattle Seahawks in the 27th pick on the first night of the draft.
“It was a dream come true,” Penny said. “I really couldn’t put it all together. I never knew it was going to happen soon, but it happened, and I thought I was in the best situation.”
Penny, who became the SDSU’s ninth first-round pick in school history, was one of the top running backs in the nations for his career, rushing for 2,248 yards and picking up 2,974 all-purpose yards, both fifth all-time. He was second in the nation in rushing touchdowns last fall with 23 and among his many accolades, he was fifth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy.
Penny had a feeling he would get the call from Seattle instead of another team and went as far as to buy several Seahawks hats from Lids in the Los Cerritos Center the day of the draft. Some of the people who were invited to come to his house on Friday didn’t come on Thursday because they didn’t think he would go in the first round
“We all knew it was a big surprise because once I got that phone call, it was just mind-blowing,” Penny said. “After that, the GM and the head coach got on the phone and asked if I wanted to be a Seahawk.”
Penny said that after the NFL combine, he took about 30 visits to see the facilities of all the NFL teams and see the GM’s and head coaches one last time before the draft. He had a feeling who was interested in him and they said if he was still around by the time it was their pick, they would select him. However, he never went to Seattle for the initial visit but heard from trainers and people upstairs that Seattle was very high on him. Among the final 12 teams who were interested in him were Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Green Bay, the Los Angeles Chargers, the Los Angeles Rams, Miami, New England, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay.
“This is a once in a lifetime deal and a lot of people don’t get drafted,” Penny said. “That’s how I look at it. If I had to go to the East Coast, I would have gone to the East Coast. But I prefer staying in the west. I’m happy about where I’m at right now.”
To add what has already been a great week in the Penny household is the fact that he will now be playing in the same division as his older brother, Elijhaa, who will be entering his third season as a member of the Arizona Cardinals. Both teams will face each other twice as divisional rivals with the first time coming in Week 4 on Sept. 30 in Glendale. They’ll meet again on Dec. 30 in Seattle, the final regular season game.
The two brothers have played against each other once, that coming in Nov. 2014 when Elijhaa was playing for the University of Idaho and the Vandals paid a visit to SDSU.
“That just adds more competition to our family,” Rashaad Penny said. “We’re already competitive as it is. But for us to go against each other twice a year, that’s going to be fun. I know he’s excited for it. But for me personally, I think it’s definitely going to be competition and I can’t wait to go against him.”
When Seattle head coach Pete Carroll called Penny for the first time on Apr. 26, he told him that he was excited and everybody in the draft room was excited that he was available.
“They got me because they think I can be their guy,” Penny said. “I have the ability to help them win and I think that’s why they chose me. He told me that I’m a three-down guy that they’re looking for. I just have to come in and compete and compete and do what I do and play the way I play.”
Penny, who was also a kickoff and punt return specialist as SDSU, said he’s not sure if the Seahawks will use him for those duties as well. He was scheduled to speak with his running backs coach this past Tuesday who was going to give Penny a little breakdown of what’s going to happen and what they expect him to do.
In a draft that was dominated by five quarterbacks getting selected in the first round and 15 defensive players, Penny was the second of three running backs taken in the first round. The first was Saquon Barkley, who went to the New York Giants as the second pick overall. Miami also picked Sony Michel four spots after Penny was selected.
“It definitely came as a surprise because you read a lot of mock drafts and you see a lot of predictions,” Penny said. “But it’s all up to the GM’s and what they think. I thought it was pretty special that they see me as a No. 2 back [coming out] because they see my capabilities and what I can do as a football player.”