All Eric Penningroth has been looking for is a chance to play football at a college that would also be challenging academically. He may have found that fit, close to his hometown, no less.
Penningroth, a Nipomo High senior running back, has verbally committed to walk on at Cal Poly, Nipomo coach Russ Edwards said Monday.
This past season, the 5-foot-10, 160-pound Penningroth accounted for a San Luis Obispo County-best 2,008 yards from scrimmage, 17 touchdowns and 13 two-point conversions, earning Tribune County Player of the Year and all-Los Padres League first-team honors.
The Titans went 8-4, advancing to the CIF-Southern Section Northwest Division quarterfinals, where they lost to Serra of Gardena, the eventual Division III state bowl champion. In that game, playing against nearly a dozen Division I recruits, Penningroth rushed for a game-high 120 yards on 25 carries.
While he’s not guaranteed a roster spot with the Mustangs, Penningroth’s lateral quickness and vision would make him ideal coming out of the Mustangs’ triple-option backfield, Edwards said.
“He’s very dangerous in open space,” Edwards said. “He’ll be able to do what he does best, and that’s make guys miss. This whole season, it was rare that an initial (would-be tackler) ever brought him down.”
Penningroth, who maintained a 4.2 grade-point average during this past season and was named the boys 2009 Nipomo Youth of the Year by the town’s Chamber of Commerce, has already been accepted into Cal Poly as an environmental engineering major.
San Diego and Cornell were among the programs he had previously been in contact with during the recruiting process.
“I’m excited about it, for sure,” Penningroth said of the opportunity at Cal Poly. “I would regret it a lot if I didn’t try to play (collegiately).
“I just hope I get a shot.”
A dual threat, Penningroth rushed for 1,593 yards and 11 touchdowns on 238 carries this past season and caught 29 passes for 415 yards and four more touchdowns. Renowned for his football IQ by coaches, he also was responsible for running the Titans’ wildcat formation, and once filled in at quarterback, finishing the year 8-of-16 passing for 86 yards and two touchdowns. He tallied nine two-point conversions and passed for four more.