Release courtesy of Al King, Assistant Athletic Director, Media Relations, Ashland University
(Photo credit: Rick Wilson)
ASHLAND, Ohio - When Jeris Pendleton was a defensive lineman for the Ashland University Eagles, he was known as a money player. The bigger the game, the better Pendleton played.
This Sunday (Sept. 9, 1 p.m.), Pendleton becomes a real money player. He will be drawing a salary to play football. Pendleton will make his NFL debut this weekend when the Jacksonville Jaguars play the Minnesota Vikings.
Pendleton is the first AU football player to be drafted since 1972. The defensive lineman was selected in the seventh round of the NFL draft by the Jags. He was the 228th overall pick in the draft.
“I’m anxious, excited, but really it’s a feeling that’s hard to describe,” said Pendleton by phone on Friday (Sept. 7). “Everybody who ever puts on a football uniform lives to play for a day like this. I want to see how the tempo picks up. This is a great experience.”
Pendleton was one of six NCAA Division II players to be picked in last spring’s draft. He was one of 25 defensive tackles taken. What set Pendleton apart from the rest of those linemen is that he is 28 years old. Pendleton will turn 29 in November. He didn’t begin playing college football until he was 24. He spent two years at Joliet Community College before arriving at Ashland.
In 2011 Pendleton was a first team All-GLIAC selection. He teamed with Jamie Meder (Parma, Ohio/Valley Forge) to give the Eagles one of the top defensive line combos in the country.
Pendleton signed a four-year contract with the Jaguars. The Eagles have an interesting tie with the Jags. Former AU kicker and Ashland native Tim Seder played with the Jaguars in 2002. Seder is the last AU grad to appear in an NFL game. Seder began his career with the Dallas Cowboys. He was signed as a free agent and spent two years (2000, 2001) in Dallas.
Pendleton didn’t waste a lot of time getting to Jacksonville once he was drafted. He signed early and was able to get to the practice facility and get a jump on training camp. He believes that played a large role in his being able to make the roster.
“It was the reps in the spring and summer,” remarked Pendleton. “When the starting defensive tackles got hurt and I got playing time, that helped me a lot. It means more than seeing it in black and white. Going out there first hand makes a big difference. It was a big help.”
Lots of coaches and players have attempted to help Pendleton over the last six weeks. Like most rookies, he’s been subjected to information overload. Asked what was the best advice he’s received so far, he said it had to do with being able to go full speed all the time.
“Coach (Mel) Tucker and the veteran players, they told me, ‘Don’t worry about making mistakes. If you make a mistake, make it fast. If you do make a mistake, make it fast.”
As a player in the GLIAC, Pendleton was known as a big, strong, defensive lineman with exceptional speed. Now, every day in practice, he’s matched against players who live in the fast lane.
“It’s totally different, you can’t even compare,” noted Pendleton when asked about the speed of the NFL game and how it matches up to anything he’s experienced before.
Another facet of this job Pendleton hasn’t dealt with before is the daily pressure to produce. As Dan Rather once observed, “The camera never blinks.” Rather was talking about the news game. The same thing can be said about football where nothing is hidden.
“Just because I made the team, you can’t become complacent,” reminded Pendleton. “Every week you compete for a job. You have to show you’re better each week. That last practice could be your last opportunity.”
Pendleton goes into Sunday’s game as a reserve defensive lineman. He has no idea how much he will play.
“I’m just focusing on what I need to do,” Pendleton said. “I need to know exactly what to do and take advantage of the opportunity if my number’s called.”
AU plays fifth ranked Wayne State this Saturday night (Sept. 8, 7 p.m.) at Jack Miller Stadium/Martinelli Field. Pendleton had eight tackles in last year’s game against the Warriors, which the Eagles won, 20-17. Pendleton and former WSU safety Jeremy Jones are both on opening day NFL rosters. Jones is playing for the Chicago Bears.