Penton Named 'Wuerffel Trophy' Finalist

Ohio State senior defensive tackle Joel Penton has been named one of 11 finalists for the Wuerffel Trophy, learned on Thursday. The award is given to the "best human being" in college football and is named after former Florida Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel.

The hardware may be rolling in for the top ranked Ohio State Buckeyes this year. Largely disappointed last year after high hopes for A.J. Hawk (who won the Lombardi) it would be a welcome for fans and the program.

Among the trophies which Buckeyes are finalists for:

Quinn Pitcock – Lombardi

Pitcock – Bednarik

Pitcock – Lott Trophy

James Laurinaitis - Bednarik

Laurinaitis – Butkus

Troy Smith – Davey O'Brien

Smith – Heisman

Smith – Walter Camp Watch List

Smith – Maxwell Watch List

Antonio Smith – Thorpe

Stan White Jr. -- Draddy

Jim Tressel – Munger Award (coach of the year)

Now add another; Joel Penton has been named a finalist for the Wuerffel Trophy, learned on Thursday.

Presented by the All Sports Association of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., the trophy is designed to reward the player who is active in the community and has an outstanding academic record.

Mother Peggy Penton said, "My husband and I and the whole family are extremely proud that he has been announced a finalist in this particular award because of what it stands for."

On its official website Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel appropriately sums up its intent: "The Wuerffel. The Humanitarian Heisman. It's about time. There's an award for the best quarterback, best running back, best wide receiver, best linebacker, best center and even the best kicker and punter. Why not one for the best human being?"

Indeed, why not?

Qualifications for the award focus on three areas:

1. Academic

* Minimum 3.0 GPA

* Additional merit weight given based upon college, major field of study, etc.

2. Athletic

* 1st team player and major contributor

* Additional consideration to those that have been voted All Conference/All American

3. Community Service

* Measurable dedication to community service

* Consistent and sustained participation

Board member John Pankratz explained, "The criteria we set up is based on academics, and (Penton) has a 3.31 which automatically vaults him into the upper echelon there. Athletically he has been a 3 ½ year player at defensive line for the Buckeyes. His community service – he did extraordinary community service with the outreach program, mission trips, working with the children's hospital, etc. They sent in two pages, so his SID (sports information director) or assistant SID did a wonderful job to get him recognition.

He continued, "Of the three prongs – one is a little bit taller. That would be community service."

Pankratz said the added weight is due to the limited range of academics (4.0 is as high as one can go) and on the field possibilities (All American, etc.). However, one can do as much community service as they desire.

Penton has garnered attention this year on the field with his blue collar work up front along the defensive line. Playing in every game, he has logged 15 tackles along with two tackles for loss and a sack. Perhaps that doesn't sound impressive, but consider Jay Richardson has just 21 despite the greater press coverage.

Off the field, he has made an even larger splash in the community – including organizing ‘The Main Event,' an evening of faith which drew estimates of 12,000 people to St. John's Arena on October 30, 2006.

Penton's packet was so impressive, the board actually re-opened the voting.

"We had 51 nominations submitted by sports information directors, athletic directors, and coaches," Pankratz said. "We got together and started our process of elimination. His was one of the last ones (we received). That afternoon when we shut it down at about 4 p.m., we went back to the website and a nomination had come across from Ohio State. The nominations closed on that day, so he still hit the deadline, but we had already done all of our work. I had left the meeting; they called me and said, ‘We are going to have to add another person to the finalist list.' They read off the stuff and faxed it to my office. We voted, and without a doubt we put him in. He was just that outstanding on paper."

Last year's winner, Rudy Niswanger, rose above on the field as a Rimington candidate as well as off the field with a 4.0 grade point average and a lengthy resume of community service activities while at LSU.

This year's full list of finalists includes:

Alex Brink, junior quarterback, Washington State

Will Herring, senior linebacker, Auburn

Joel Howells, senior placekicker, Northwestern

Wade Koehl, senior linebacker, Houston

Tyler Palko, senior quarterback, Pittsburgh

— Joel Penton, senior defensive lineman, Ohio State

Carl Pendleton, junior defensive tackle, Oklahoma

Zac Selmon, junior tight end, Wake Forest

Paul Smith, junior quarterback, Tulsa

Joe Thomas, senior offensive tackle, Wisconsin

Dane Todd, senior fullback, Nebraska

The winner will be notified the week of November 26th via phone. The school will then be able to call a press conference.

Whether Penton wins or is simply a finalist, Pankratz noted, "He is one of the top 11 guys in Division I-A as a human being. That in itself says a lot."

For a more information on the Wuerffel Trophy go to:

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