Two Panthers prepare for NFL Drafts

Former Panthers Isaiah Weston (80) and Trevor Penning (70) are expected to be selected in this year’s NFL Draft. Penning is projected to be the highest Panther ever taken in the draft, while Weston is expected to go somewhere in the later rounds. The NFL Draft will begin on Thursday night with the first round, followed by rounds two and three on Friday and round four through seven on Saturday. It can be viewed on ESPN, NFL Network and simulcast on ABC and ESPN Radio.

DAVID WARRINGTON

While the UNI Panther football team just completed their spring practices with the 2022 Spring Game, two former Panthers are preparing to see where their professional futures lie with the upcoming NFL Draft. Two players are expected to be picked from the UNI program, including a player who is projected to be selected in the first round, which would be a first for the UNI football program.

Trevor Penning, an offensive lineman who primarily played at left tackle for the Panthers, is projected to be selected in the first round. A native of Clear Lake, Iowa, who played his prep football at Newman Catholic, there is a lot to like about the future NFL player.

After a standout final season in Cedar Falls, Penning was a finalist for the Walter Payton Award, awarded annually to the top offensive player in the FCS. Penning was also invited to the Senior Bowl, where he impressed scouts and media members alike with dominant plays against some of the top defensive players entering the draft.

After being undersized entering the program, Penning now weighs in at 325 pounds to go along with his 6’7” frame. This can be attributed to his unmatched work ethic. Penning has also been praised by scouts for his aggressive play on the field, with NFL.com referring to it as a “gritty, throwback field demeanor.” Penning also impressed at the NFL Scouting Combine, running the 40-yard dash in 4.89 seconds, the second-fastest among all offensive linemen.

The most likely destination for Penning in various mock drafts has been the Baltimore Ravens, who have the 14th pick and are in need of help along the offensive line. Other popular destinations from predictors include the New Orleans Saints, who pick 16th, and the Los Angeles Chargers, who will pick 17th. Should Penning wind up being selected on Thursday, he will become the first ever player from Northern Iowa taken in the first round of the NFL Draft. 

The other former Panther preparing for the upcoming draft is wide receiver Isaiah Weston. A native of Albertville, Minn. who prepped at St. Michael-Albertville High School, Weston caught 109 passes for 2,468 yards and 21 touchdowns over the course of his career in Cedar Falls. This past season, he was recognized on the All-MVFC Second Team, and received invitations to two senior bowl games, the Hula Bowl as well as the NFLPA Bowl. During his time as a Panther, Weston earned a reputation for being UNI’s main deep-ball threat. His size and athleticism allows him to beat defenders in a footrace and gives him the advantage in a one-on-one situation on a long pass thrown to him down field. 

Weston opened a lot of eyes at the NFL Scouting Combine, running a 4.42 in the 40-yard dash. He also achieved a leap of 40 inches in the vertical jump and completed 20 reps in the bench press. After this strong combine performance, he moved up in a lot of mock drafts.

Currently, Weston is expected to be selected in the sixth round. If he were to fall out of the seventh round and go undrafted, experts expect him to be a high-priority free agent for NFL teams.

The 2022 NFL Draft will take place from Caesars Forum in Paradise, Nev., with the first round taking place this Thursday, April 28 at 7 p.m. The second and third rounds will be held on Friday, while rounds four through seven will be on Saturday. Two former Panthers will be watching draft night intently, as will plenty of Panther fans hoping to see the players they cheered for in the UNI-Dome move on to the pros.