Packers rookie DT Pennel impressive at training camp

- (WFRV-TV) - Packers rookie defensive tackle Mike Pennel may be one of the most unknown players at Packers training camp.

"Who's that?" Josh Sitton joked this week when asked about the rookie free agent.

"I know who he is I'm just kidding," said the veteran guard.

Teammates and the guys who go up against Pennel at practice certainly know who he is.

"He's a big ol' (expletive)," said Sitton.  "He is big and strong.  He's a house for sure."

"I think he's having a hell of a training camp," added fellow guard T.J. Lang.  "He's a guy that's obviously a very large man, he's tough to move."

With free agent signing Letroy Guion sidelined for all of training camp so far with a hamstring injury, Pennel has seen plenty of playing time on the inside of a defensive line that has gotten smaller with the departures of Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly.  Pennel hopes his size gives him a head up on the competition."

"Being 6'4" 330-340 that's about the same size (as Jolly and Pickett) so I mean I hope so," said Pennel.  But I mean the coaches and everybody, they'll figure out where I fit in the scheme if I am so fortunate to make the 53 (man roster)."

Pennel feels fortunate to even have this opportunity after what he faced as a child.

"When I was 3 years old I had Wilms' tumor cancer," said Pennel.  "I had to have surgery to remove part of my kidney, went through chemotherapy.  Thank god there's been no (recurrence) ever since.  My grandmother always tells me I'm a miracle child so everything I'm doing is part of God's plan."

After going through that and growing up in a single-parent household, Pennel says his mother is his inspiration to succeed.

"My mom was everything," Pennel said.  "She worked 2,3 jobs to support me and my sister.  My sister's in the Navy now.  She showed us how to get to our path of success.  Without her I'd be lost."

Lost is how the talented defensive tackle felt after a tumultuous college football career.  After two years at Scottsdale Community College, Pennel attended Arizona State.  After multiple suspensions that led to a tumultuous situation with the coaching staff, Pennel finished up college  at his third different school,  Division 2 Colorado State-Pueblo.

"I just try to live from my mistakes and not repeat them," said Pennel when asked about his college career.  "I think I've done that. I'm glad it didn't hinder too much my ability to make it to the next level.   Maybe things would have been different with the draft.  We can all live off 'would of, could of, should of's,' but I'm just glad I'm here now."

Head Coach Mike McCarthy said so far so good for Pennel who did pretty well in his more than 25 snaps during his first pro action against St. Louis.

"Just getting better every day," said McCarthy.  "Needs to continue to do so.  This will be a big week.  I like what he's done so far."

"You can always do more," said Pennel of continuing to improve to impress coaches. "Make more plays, keep working on my technique, and keeping my head down in the playbook."

If he does that and impresses during games, Pennel may just become the most unknown Packer, to make the team.

"I think he's a guy that definitely has a bright future," said Lang.

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