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Former Norwalk High and current San Diego State University standout Rashaad Penny is off to the races, picking up some of his 205 yards against the University of New Mexico on Nov. 24. Penny, a senior, leads the Aztecs, and the nation, with 2,029 rushing yards with one more game to play. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, contributing photographer.


By Loren Kopff
Sports Editor

It’s not quite known if Rashaad Penny ever set any rushing records at Norwalk High, since those records at most high schools tend to be missing or inaccurate half the time. But Penny will leave San Diego State University with a handful of records and accolades as the Aztecs prepare to play Army in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl on Dec. 23 in Fort Worth, TX.

It will mark the final time Penny will suit up in an Aztec uniform. After that, hopefully the National Football League where his older brother Elijhaa is currently playing for the Arizona Cardinals. Penny wrapped up his regular season, and final home game in America’s Finest City, against the University of New Mexico on Nov. 24, a 35-10 win in which he rushed for 205 yards and scored twice. It marked the fourth straight game that Penny had rushed for at least 200 yards.

“I really thought coming in here, I wanted to be a player that contributed to this offense and do whatever it takes to win,” Penny said. “But playing a key role in this offense is amazing. I can’t thank [junior fullback Nick Bawden] so much, the offensive line and offensive coordinator [Jeff Horton] for putting me in the right situations and doing everything they can to just let me spring free and not just run. But yeah, it’s amazing.”

Penny will enter the Army game with 2,029 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns. His performance against UNM helped SDSU become first NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) school in history to have back to back 2,000-yard rushers. Last season, Donnel Pumphrey rushed for a single season, school-record 2,133 yards. Penny can break that record with 104 yards against Army.

But it’s not just the rushing yardage that has made Penny’s stock rise over the past two seasons. He is tied for the FBS record with seven career kickoff returns for touchdowns and eight career kick returns for touchdowns. He is currently the school’s fourth all-time leading rusher with 3,437 yards, already has the school record for career all-purpose yards, and kick returns for touchdowns. Penny has the most career Mountain West Conference Player of the Week awards by any SDSU player (nine) and can set the SDSU single season school record of touchdowns with one more against Army.

In fact, over three and a half pages are devoted to him in the SDSU Media Guide, more than any player on this season’s team. Last season, Pumphrey got the bulk of attention as he became the all-time NCAA career rushing leader while Penny was getting noticed for his kick returning skills. This year, the talk around San Diego has been Penny, constantly being on the news or being mentioned and/or interviewed on The Mighty 1090, San Diego’s top sports radio station.

“Nothing but greatness,” Penny’s mon Desiree said. “I love watching him play; he’s an awesome runner. That’s my kid. It’s just so much, I just don’t know.

“Nothing but patience,” she continued “Rashaad definitely has patience and D.J. is a good running back. But, it was nothing but patience and just waiting his time.”

“What I know about him, he’s a very talented young man that was raised right by his parents and his family and he’s a good guy,” said SDSU head coach Rocky Long after the UNM game. “Not only he’s a talented player, but he’s a good guy [and a] good teammate. He does well in school. He’s never a problem. And the best thing about anybody on our team is when they’re [a] team’s guy first. I mean, he’s as good as any running back in the country. I don’t care what they say. He’s as good as any of them.”

Long went on to add that Penny doesn’t get the recognition he deserves from the rest of the country because, ‘he is one of us’. Penny was snubbed on Nov. 20 in the voting to be a finalist for the Doak Walker award, which goes out to the nation’s top running back. Penny currently leads the nation in rushing yardage. Then this past Monday afternoon, Penny was snubbed again, not being a finalist for the Heisman Trophy award, which will be presented on Saturday evening.

“It makes me mad,” Bawden said. “It makes me mad for him because I know he won’t get mad about it. But I’ll get mad for him about it. But he deserves [the Doak Walker] award. It’s absurd that he’s not even in the conversation. He deserves that award, or the Heisman.”

“I was just too excited,” Desiree Penny said, when she first heard that her son was being mentioned for the Heisman award. “I first saw it on Twitter; Rashaad didn’t call and say anything. I was like, ‘oh my God, is this Rashaad? Rashaad, why didn’t you call and say you were among the Heisman watch?’ He’s just so quiet and mellow about everything. He doesn’t boast or brag.”

But, all is not lost for the third of four Penny athletes to come out of Norwalk. He is a finalist for the Walter Camp Award, which goes out to the best collegiate player as voted by FBS head coaches and sports information directors.

The list of school and NCAA records Penny either set or tied, as well as the numerous accolades he has won over the past four seasons is longer than a grocery list. But the interdisciplinary studies major continues to be humble about his achievements while wearing the black and red.

“I can’t do that without great coaching or great guys around you,” Rashaad Penny said. “And honestly, I don’t even look at [the awards] like that because I’m not big on them. I’m in a group of five. I say that every time because it’s true. They’re going to overlook me. It’s just something that you have to deal with.

“I’m always smiling,” he later said. “Even when I fumble, it’s not a good feeling but I smile because you get another play, another opportunity. It’s a turnover but you just can’t look back on things; can’t let things affect you. It’s just all about how you overcome adversity. And that’s what I’ve been taught here with these guys. When I have these great teammates on the side, trust me, I’m always smiling.”

Penny may have been smiling, but he also might have been a bit misty-eyed as he was being introduced as one of the 19 seniors who played their final home game as an Aztec. Penny admitted it was definitely emotional because as an Aztec, you want to stay there forever. But he also said that his time as a collegiate athlete has to end at some point.

“Before the game, I shake all of the seniors’ hands and tell them good luck,” Long said. “After the game, I made him come in the middle of the circle in the locker room and he started us off on what to say after the game. I forgot what he said. It wasn’t earth shattering, but the players, they enjoy when he talks to them.”

“It will be sad because Rashaad really loves his team,” Desiree Penny said. “He really loves his team, he loves his [offensive] line. He loves how they open up holes. It will be sad, but it will also be joyous because he loves playing with his team He never looks at himself as, ‘I did that’. It’s always, ‘we did this’.”