Former Utah DT John Penisini Didn’t Expect To Be In Position To Get Drafted

Feb 17, 2020, 3:30 PM
(Photo by Tom Walko/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)...
(Photo by Tom Walko/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Tom Walko/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The journey for two-time All-Pac-12 defensive tackle John Penisni to be in the position to get selected in the upcoming NFL Draft took a detour before he arrived at the University of Utah.

The West Jordan, Utah native had a late arrive to the Utes. He spent the 2015 seasons with Snow College in Ephraim, Utah before having an impact on the Utes program for three seasons and is now in prime position to play at the next level.

Penisini joined the Crimson Corner podcast to discuss his route to Utah and all the hard work he has put in to this point to play in the NFL as well as the memories from his three seasons as a Ute. The entire interview can be heard below.

From Snow College To Utah Utes

Penisini was an honorable mention All-Western States Football League in his one season with the Badgers at the junior college level after recording 40 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, three sacks and a forced fumble in 2015. He then joined Utah in 2017 after not playing in 2016. Penisini considers his path to being a Ute a blessing.

“It’s a blessing to make it this far,” Penisini stated. “I think it was a humbling experience especially coming from being the guy in high school and then not really making it to a bigger school so I had to go the junior college route. I handled business there (at Snow) and grew up there. Once I got to Utah, I fell in love with it. I had to get used to the speed of the game because it is way different, a lot faster. The coaching at Utah is really a family atmosphere and they really want you to do well and be the best man that you can be. Coach (Morgan) Scalley really pushes us to be a Utah man. I definitely bought in and now I am here training for the NFL Combine.”

He will join 8 of his teammates from the University of Utah at the upcoming NFL Scouting Combine. After everything that Penisini had to go through just to get to Utah and then be an All-Pac-12 player, he didn’t expect to be a guy that would potentially get drafted in the NFL.

“I didn’t think I would have made it this far,” Penisini said. “I knew I was going to do some good things but I took it one step at a time at Snow. I made it to Utah, didn’t do so well in my first year but my junior year really opened my eyes. By then, I kind of noticed until my senior year as things got closer especially when I got invited to the Shrine Bowl. Now that I am training for this (the NFL) and being one of the selected few to go to the Combine. I never thought I would be here but it’s awesome.”

Career At Utah

A lot of hard work and dedication went into Penisini’s path to a successful college career. In three seasons with Utah, he started in 22 of the 40 games he appeared in. After a great senior campaign with 38 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 2 sacks and 2 forced fumbles, Penisini was invited to play in the Shrine Bowl. He joined quarterback Tyler Huntley and left tackle Darrin Paulo in the game.

“It was awesome knowing that I had my boys with me,” Penisini said. “It was cool to play against some of the other stars from around the country and showcasing our talent from the Pac-12 against those guys in the SEC, Big 10 and Big 12. It was nice because all three of us did really well.”

That relationship with his two teammates came from the strong bond that Penisini had with every player who put on the Utah football uniform over the last three seasons. That and his relationship with the coaching staff is how he would summarize his career at Utah.

“Love, to be honest,” said Penisni. “With our team, no one was perfect. They (coaches) were really there for us. Whenever me or my teammates were going through something, we could always talk to the coaches. The experience was fun, we were all super close. There was not one bad problem in the locker room.”

Pensini was regarded as one of the most underrated players in the Pac-12 by head coach Kyle Whittingham. He was a big part of Utah’s dominance on the defensive line that included Bradlee Anae and Leki Fotu.

“It’s awesome to play with the best defensive line in the country,” mentioned Penisini. “We set goals in spring ball and we repeated it everyday, what we needed to do, how we needed to work and hold each other accountable.”

Training will be the main priority for Penisini from now until the upcoming NFL Scouting Combine which will take place from Sunday, February 23 to Monday, March 2 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Then he will participate in Utah’s Pro Day at the end of March before the NFL Draft is held from Thursday, April 23 to Saturday, April 25 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The Crimson Corner podcast is the one-stop for all things University of Utah Athletics hosted by Utah insider Trevor Allen. Ute fans will find interviews with current players, coaches, and staff alongside expert analysis of every game, story and angle coming out of the University of Utah.

You can download and listen to the podcast, here.

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