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'I'm staying Green'

Pennington slides to No. 18, but happy to be with Jets

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Posted: Sunday April 16, 2000 04:00 AM

  Chad Pennington Chad Pennington is trading in his green and white Marshall jersey for the Jets' green and white. Jonathan Daniel/Allsport

NEW YORK, N.Y. (AP) -- New York already has Park Place. Now it will be known as Pennington's pad.

Marshall quarterback Chad Pennington was selected 18th overall by the New York Jets in the first round of Saturday's NFL draft.

"I'm staying green, so I'm doing great," Pennington said from his parents' home in Knoxville, Tenn.

As many as 40 relatives and friends, including former Marshall teammate Larry McCloud, were there to celebrate with him.

"I've got calls coming from everywhere" Pennington said.

Pennington has no second thoughts about going from a small school in the heart of Appalachia to the glare of the Big Apple.

"That makes it more exciting. They're great football fans. They're awesome," Pennington said, having watched Jets fans at the draft call his name earlier in the first round. "Hopefully, I'll win them over to my side."

The Jets, who had four first-round picks overall, passed over Pennington twice earlier in the round but refused to overlook him a third time. Jets coach Al Groh said he was somewhat surprised that Pennington was still available.

"It is a very fortuitous call for us because usually when you get this type of quarterback you have to use your first-round selection to get him," Groh said. "We've already taken two players that will really help our team and yet were also able to get a first-round selection at quarterback."

Still, the selection was considered somewhat of a surprise, even to Pennington.

Vinny Testaverde, coming back from a torn Achilles tendon, is New York's No. 1 quarterback. Ray Lucas replaced him last season, but the Jets felt they needed more protection at the position and selected Pennington.

"It's a win-win situation for me," Pennington said. "I go into a great football town, where I've got one of the best coaches in [quarterbacks coach] Dan Henning being my mentor, and Vinnie Testaverde being my teacher."

Three teams that had considered taking Pennington passed him over earlier in the round. The Pittsburgh Steelers took Michigan State receiver Plaxico Burress; the Denver Broncos selected Cal cornerback Deltha O'Neal, and the San Francisco 49ers took Michigan State linebacker Julian Peterson.

"I do like Chad Pennington, but I do like Brian Griese and I do like Gus Frerotte," said Broncos coach Mike Shanahan. "I've got two quarterbacks who are going to fight it out."

As the minutes turned into hours, Pennington wasn't dejected over the initial snub.

"No, not at all," he said.

Although Pennington was chosen lower in the round than some expected, he was still the first quarterback selected.

Pennington finished fifth in this year's Heisman Trophy balloting. He led the Thundering Herd to a 13-0 record and a No. 10 ranking in the final Associated Press poll.

He finished his career with 13,143 yards passing and 115 touchdown passes.


 
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Jets coach Al Groh says New York's plethora of first-round picks allowed them to strengthen in critical areas and still prepare for the future. (187 K)
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Pennington insists that he and the Jets are a perfect match. (108 K)
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