Two of last year's top players in the MAC signed NFL contracts last week: Marshall's Chad Pennington signed Thursday with the New York Jets, and Miami's Travis Prentice signed with the Cleveland Browns Sunday.
A native of Knoxville, TN, Pennington excelled on-the-field and in the classroom, meriting finalist consideration for a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship en-route to graduating with a degree in broadcast communications. Pennington was selected as the GTE Academic All-America Team Member of the Year for the 1999-2000 academic year. One of five finalists for the 1999 Heisman Trophy Award, Pennington threw for 14,098 yards and a school record 123 touchdown passes with the Thundering Herd.
"He reminds me in a lot of ways of Phil Simms, and in my point of reference, he's a pretty good guy to be reminded of," Jets head Coach Al Groh said of Pennington on draft day. "Chad's a winner."
The Jets began training camp Friday, July 14 at their Hofstra University training complex. Terms of the contract were undisclosed.
Prentice, who had been waiting in a Cleveland-area hotel while his agent got the deal done, signed with the team Sunday morning and joined his teammates in the afternoon after missing the first nine practices of the Browns' preseason.
"I kept watching the news and seeing the Browns practice," Prentice said. "It was tough knowing I had been out there in mini-camp and I wasn't for training camp."
Prentice, who left Miami as the NCAA's all-time leader in points scored (468), rushing touchdowns (73), and total touchdowns (78), didn't see much action his first day.
"He ran a couple of plays," Browns' head coach Chris Palmer said. "He's getting his feet wet."
"I've got a lot of catching up to do," admitted Prentice.