A penny isn’t worth much. It’s the informal name of the American cent. In popular culture, the term is used in different idiomatic expressions. "A penny for your thoughts" is used to ask someone what they're thinking about. The expression “my two cents” uses the low-value denomination to depreciate the speaker's thoughts for the sake of humility or irony (my humble opinion). Finding a penny, to some, is considered to be good luck. There are many ways to reference a penny, but how much is a penny really worth? If we are talking about coins, there isn’t much to discuss in terms of value. But I am referring to a person, not an object. I am speaking about a Penny that will be worth millions in the near future.
Rashaad Armein Penny was born Feb. 2, 1996, in Norwalk, California to Robert and Desiree Taplin. He attended Norwalk High School in Norwalk, California, where he was a three-time letterwinner. He rushed for 2,504 yards and 41 touchdowns on 216 carries as a senior. He also caught 21 passes for 665 yards and 10 touchdowns, racking up 3,416 all-purpose yards. Over his entire high school career he rushed for 5,124 yards on 496 carries (averaging 10.3 yds/carry) and scored 103 total touchdowns, including 80 on the ground. He was named the Suburban League MVP as a senior and also earned first-team all-Suburban League honors his final three years. He was also named first-team all-state.
Coming out of high school, Penny received a three-star ranking from Rivals.com, ESPN.com and 247sports.com. Scout.com ranked him as the 42nd running back in the 2014 class; 247sports had him 63rd. 247sports also gave him a grade of 84 while ESPN gave him a scout grade of 73. Penny was offered by San Diego State, Colorado State, Fresno State, Boise State, San Jose State and a couple other mid-major schools. Ultimately Rashaad would take his talents to San Diego, California as a San Diego State Aztec.
As a true freshman (2014), Penny played in all 13 games as the Aztec’s main kick returner. He returned 20 kicks for 500 yards during the season. In his sophomore year (2015), he was named the Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year by MWC coaches and media. At the teams season-ending banquet, he was named Most Valuable Special Teams Player. He ranked third on the team in all-purpose yards with 1,292 yards in 14 games; 804 of those yards came returning kickoffs and included three that were returned for touchdowns, setting a new school single-season record. The 804 kickoff return yards were good enough for second most in Aztec history right behind Monty Gilbreath who had 880 yards in 1987. Penny also rushed for 368 yards on 61 carries with four scores on the ground; added 120 yards receiving on eight catches and one touchdown through the air. He earned his first career start at Colorado State and finished with 135 all-purpose yards with 81 yards in kick returns and 54 rushing yards on nine attempts.
His junior season (2016), he was named Mountain West Special Teams POTY for the second straight year and was a first-team all-Mountain West pick. The last MWC player to receive the STPOTY award twice was Jeremy Kerley (TCU, 09-10). Also, for the second straight season, Penny was named the teams MVST Player. He made the watch list for the Paul Hornung Award which goes out to the most versatile player. He rushed for 1,018 yard and 11 touchdowns on 136 carries, averaging 7.5 yards per attempt. Additionally, he caught 15 balls for 224 yards and three touchdowns to go along with 624 yards on kick returns on just 20 attempts with two being returned for touchdowns. At one point in the 2016 season, Penny had a touchdown in nine straight games with 11 total touchdowns over that span. He finished the season with 1,866 total yards and 16 total touchdowns.
If his first three years at San Diego State didn’t impress you, Rashaad Penny’s senior season would be sure to leave your jaw agape. In the 2017 season, Penny would lead the entire country in rushing yards with 2,248 yards on 289 carries, averaging 7.8 yards per attempt, to go along with 23 rushing touchdowns; Penny was the only player to rush for over 2,000 yards in the regular season. He also had 19 receptions for 135 yards with two touchdowns & 521 kick return yards on 17 attempts. He finished the season with a total of 2,974 yards and 25 touchdowns. He also had a four game streak during the season where he rushed for 200+ yards each game. Penny was selected to the Associated Press All-American team along with Mountain West Offensive & Special Teams Player of the Year awards; the first player to win two conference player-of-the-year awards in a single season. He also finished 5th in the Heisman voting but was not invited to New York for the ceremony.
Penny accepted an invite to play in the 69th annual Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL and was added to the list of players on December 4, 2017. He didn’t have a great week of practice but in the game on January 27, 2018, he would show off his unique versatility in a big way. He ran for 64 yards on nine carries and had one reception that went for a 73 yard touchdown from Virginia quarterback, Kurt Benkert. He finished the game with 147 total yards on just 10 touches and was named the South team’s Co-Most Outstanding Player along with DJ Chark from LSU.
Throughout Penny’s time at San Diego State, he steadily improved his statistical numbers and increased his value and productivity year-to-year. Right now, Penny is projected to be a 2nd Round draft pick. Most mock drafts have only one running back going in the first round (Saquon Barkley, Penn State). Penny brings a versatility that can be very useful for any NFL team that takes him. He's a great runner between the tackles and on the edge. He is and has been, since his freshman year, one of the best kick returners in the country. His ability to catch passes out of the backfield will need some refining but he displayed his potential in the Senior Bowl with the long touchdown reception. There is still time to improve his draft stock even more with the NFL Combine (Feb 27-Mar 5) before the draft (April 26-28) in Arlington, Texas at AT&T Stadium. Regardless of where he gets drafted or the team that picks him up, he’s worth every penny.