Former Panther standouts competing in the NFL



Trevor Penning (70) during UNI’s 13-6 loss to Missouri State on March 20, 2021. Penning was selected 19th overall in the 2022 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints. Penning is currently on the injured reserve.

BEN LAHART, Sports Writer

As an FCS program, UNI may not seem like the best pipeline for players to make it to the NFL. However, they have more players in the league than some may think. The Panthers currently have two players on active rosters, two players on injured reserve, one player on a practice squad and a few players that are free agents waiting to join a team.

Offensive tackle Spencer Brown is currently the starting right tackle for the Buffalo Bills. Brown was taken with the 93rd pick in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft. In Brown’s first season with the Bills last year, he played in 13 of the 17 games and has started every game he has played in since week four of that season. Elijah Campbell is the other former Panther currently on a roster. The defensive back went undrafted in the 2018 draft before signing with the Cleveland Browns. He now plays for the Miami Dolphins and has been mostly used as a special teams player but has started to see more defensive snaps and even had an interception return touchdown in the preseason.

There are two former UNI players that would be on active rosters if not for injuries. The first example is Elerson Smith, a defensive end for the New York Giants. Smith was drafted in 2021 with the 116th pick in the fourth round. He played in eight games last season finishing with eight tackles and forcing one fumble. The other player on the injured reserve is also the most recent Panther. Offensive tackle Trevor Penning was taken with the 19th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints making him the highest drafted Panther ever. After a stellar senior season and a slightly rocky training camp, Penning suffered a torn ligament in his foot and was placed on the injured reserve on Sept. 1. After his surgery on his foot, there is a chance he could return to the team sometime in early November.

Daurice Fountain, a former UNI wide receiver, is currently a part of the Kansas City Chiefs practice squad. He was drafted in 2018 by the Indianapolis Colts with the 159th pick in the fifth round. He has become more of a special teams player in years past with the Chiefs playing 76 percent of special teams snaps last year. He will be in contention for some playing time this year as he looks to be called up from the practice squad.

These former Panthers are enjoying careers playing the sport they love and hopefully we can watch them continue to succeed in the coming years.