Overview: Antonio Penn is a versatile defensive back who also has the ability to contribute on special teams. He has good speed and has a high football I.Q. He is currently a free agent who is looking for an opportunity to continue his journey as a professional football player.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Antonio, during which time he told me more about his background, his personality and his overall love for football.
1. What is it like playing for the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks? What was the process like for being selected into their program?
AP: Well after unfortunately being released heading into week 2 of training camp, the experience being a part of the organization was great. They really carried their program in a professional manner that I believe and hope all other professional organizations follow. They were really about us, as players on the field and as men off the field.
The process was just breath taking honestly. After going undrafted in 2016, I never lost the vision or determination to go pro. I received quite a bit of attention from teams overseas but, I passed up on those opportunities to attend professional arena football workouts I was invited to participate in. I was invited to multiple workouts with the Columbus Lions. I attended the 2nd workout which was a 2-day minicamp. Following the minicamp, nothing progressed with the Lions and within a few weeks, the Steelhawks called. They invited me up for a workout in September (2016). I attended the workout and through my stand-out performance, I earned a contract call a few hours following. It was an overwhelming feeling to hear a professional coach approach me via phone and say, “We would like to be a part of our organization and family. What do think about being offered a professional contract to become a Lehigh Valley Steelhawks?”
2. What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses?
AP: My strengths are my knowledge and understanding of the game, as well as my speed and physicality that I bring to the field of play. I also bring versatility, being able to make an impact on either side of the ball and special teams as well. My size (6’3 – 195lbs) and speed gives me the versatile ability to play in the secondary or the box. In addition to my size and speed along with my physical strength, I can cover any type of receiver regardless of their size or speed. Only weakness I can think of is…I do not run a 4.2 40.
3. What separates you from the other players at your position?
AP: I can guard any receiver and play any coverage effectively on either side of the field. My knowledge of why and how to use certain techniques in certain coverages and/or plays, along with my instincts, sets me apart from others at my position as well.
4. What has been your biggest accomplishment during your football career?
AP: Signing my first professional football contract is easily my biggest accomplishment during my football career so far.
5. Which current or former NFL player do you think you resemble and why?
AP: I would have to go with Ray Lewis just based off of my mentality and passion for the game. Regardless if we are winning or losing, I approach every play with the same mentality, “I have to perfect my assignment, so we (the team) can win this play!” I bring so much positive energy and leadership to the game and the teammates around me. When it comes to my style of play, I respectfully cannot say I resemble anyone. I bring my own style to the table in this game.
6. What can you bring to a professional football team?
AP: Off the field I can bring leadership and professionalism, not only for the bettering of myself but also the people around me, to a professional football team. On the field I can bring leadership, versatility, commitment and playmaking ability on defense or special teams, to a professional football team.
7. When did you first fall in love with playing football?
AP: I first fell in love with football at the age of 6. Played dominantly quarterback throughout my childhood up until my sophomore year of high school, where I made the transition to defensive back, wide receiver and specialist returner.
8. How do you prepare for game day? Do you have any game day rituals?
AP: The day before a game I like to watch a few hours of film on the opponents while listening to my game day music playlist. I finish the night with a session of yoga and meditation. Game day morning I always start off my day listening to gospel music and talking to God for an hour or so. Then I listen to motivational messages from Eric Thomas and Ray Lewis for an hour as well. Following that, I listen to my game day playlist up until kickoff.
9. What is the most inspirational or powerful thing a coach has ever said to you in your college career?
AP: “In order to be great you have to wake up and attack each day like you’re the worst football player. And every single night, go to bed the greatest football player ever.” – Coach Ham
Senior year of high school, after making the decision to continue my football journey at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, I spoke with the defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton (Coach Ham) at the time, informed him of what my goals were and that was his response. It really shaped who I have become today and who I am becoming moving forward.
10. What should people reading this interview know about you?
AP: Well first, what coaches and scouts should know about me is that I am available, my phone line is open. I bring a lot to the table for your organization, from leadership through my character and game, to professionalism carried and representation of any organization I am a part of. I am a quick learner and I am highly coachable. I always live the sponge life, waiting to absorb the necessities to improve my game and knowledge to help transform me into an elite NFL defensive back. I am committed to the grind daily and hold myself accountable for my every action on and off the field. Not only do I bring versatile talent to improve the organization, I also bring the value of making my teammates around me better and vice versa. You will never encounter contract issues with me; I could careless of how many millions you offer me…all I want is the opportunity to prove myself to the coaches and the organization in camp. I will never be a regret.
What people should know is my name and that I am a man of God and football is my passion. In the world outside of sports, I am no better than this person or that person because of my professionalism. If you have a dream, go get it. No matter how bumpy the road gets, keep pushing because I believe in every one of you. Make Ways, Not Excuses.
Locker Room Update would like to thank Antonio Penn for taking the time to speak with us. We wish him the best of luck as he continues his journey as a professional football player.
You can check out his highlights here.
Follow him on Twitter: @Authentic_Penn
Christa is a syndicated New York Jets beat writer and acts as the primary talent scout for Locker Room Update, where she interviews college football players from around the nation. You can follow her author page on Facebook here for the latest updates.