Pendleton Selected In Seventh Round By Jacksonville Jaguars
Ashland University defensive lineman Jeris Pendleton (Chicago, Ill./Joliet Junior College) was selected in the seventh round of the NFL draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars on April 28. He was the 228th player selected in this year's draft.
"This is big," said Ashland University head coach Lee Owens. "Next week we go back out on the road and you can bet we'll tell everyone we had someone taken in the NFL draft. That's what players want to know."
"When you look at guys from smaller colleges, you look for guys with rare genetics who show dominant traits," explained Jaguars general manager Gene Smith. "Certainly, they're the type of people who have Jaguars traits – they're going to work to improve. Jeris has all those things.
Owens knew that NFL scouts held the 6-3, 322-pound Pendleton in high regard. The Indianapolis Colts were known as one team that had significant interest. Several others raved about his workouts and what they saw on film.
"It's definitely been a whirlwind," said Pendleton. "It was coming down to the final picks and we were just thinking, 'Man, is it gonna happen?' I'm thinking in my head of all the defensive tackles that have (been picked) and I'm thinking I'm probably gonna go undrafted. (Jacksonville) told me they liked the story about how I got to where I'm at now and that they look forward to me coming into camp and getting ready to go. It was a surreal moment.
"It's been a roller-coaster," continued Pendleton. "At one time I was getting calls from the Saints, I was getting calls from the Colts. But it was like, one minute they wanted me and the next minute you don't hear from them for a while."
Pendleton played two years at Ashland. His route to football stardom is far from typical. After completing his high school career (he was a linebacker and tight end at Chicago's Dunbar High School), he didn't play football or go to school for six years. At the age of 24 he made a vow that he would return to school and play again. He left a job as a security guard at a hospital in the Chicago area and enrolled at Joliet Junior College.
Pendleton had never played a minute as a defensive lineman before he arrived at Joliet. In two years there he earned first team all-conference and second team All-America laurels. At Ashland University, Pendleton had 35 tackles (19 solo), a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss in 2010. This past season he had 49 tackles (20 solo), 8.5 tackles for loss (55 yards) and five sacks. Pendleton was eighth in the conference in sacks and was a first team All-GLIAC selection. He led the Eagles in sacks, was third in tackles for loss and sixth in tackles.
"At Joliet it was just go out there and do your stuff," recalled Pendleton. "I had a coach teaching about hand placement. At Ashland, it was working on proper stance, the right steps, the fundamentals across the board. I had to know it all. But they (Joliet) put me in a good position. That first year I didn't have a defensive line coach. The second year I did and he taught me a lot."
Pendleton is 28 years old, which might have made some NFL teams wary about taking him.
"I thought it might be an age thing and I can't blame them," said Pendleton.
Of course, one way to look at this is that even though Pendleton is older than the regular NFL draftee, he doesn't have the wear and tear on his legs that many linemen his age do. Throughout his Ashland University career, Pendelton was a terror inside. Against nationally-ranked Bloomsburg in the 2010 opener, a game Ashland University won, 24-10, Pendleton had eight tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. After the game, Bloomsburg head coach Danny Hale shook his head and said, "Looks like Coach Rose (defensive coordinator Tim) has got himself some big guys up front."
"I believe I can hold down the run," remarked Pendleton. "I believe I can hold my ground in there at tackle. I won't be getting pushed around. That's my strength right there, being solid against the run."
This past season, Pendleton teamed with Jamie Meder (Parma, Ohio/Valley Forge) to give the Eagles one of the best defensive line combos in the conference. Meder, a sophomore, was also a first team all-conference player.
Getting selected in the NFL draft coming out of Ashland is a rarity. Pendleton is just the fourth player in school history to have his name called during the NFL draft. That list appears below.
Year Player Position Team Round
1971 Len Pettigrew DE Philadelphia Eagles 14th
1972 Bill Overmyer LB Philadelphia Eagles 9th
1977 Walt Williams DB Detroit Lions 2nd
(Williams began his career at Ashland but when he was drafted, he was playing for New Mexico State.)
(Jaguars.com and Doug Haidet of the Ashland-Times Gazette contributed to this story.)