Trevor Penning doesn't apologize for competing with a mean streak. He grates on opponents and it's absolutely intentional. If the Ravens draft Penning to fortify their offensive line, you get the feeling he will relish playing in the rugged AFC North.
"Teams that want that kind of nasty edge? It's a huge part of my game," Penning said at the NFL Scouting Combine.
"You want to make the defender across from you feel it. You want him at the end of the day to be exhausted. He wants to get on that flight, get the hell out of there.
"I think it's just a switch you've got to have to play football. Especially the offensive line. Playing very nasty, I believe, is how O-line has to be played. You want to make that guy across from you hate to go against you. You want to see the fear in his eyes."
Penning often smiles when he talks trash and his personality seems suited for a future in professional wrestling. But his immediate focus is on the NFL, and with the Ravens looking to add physicality and depth at offensive tackle, Penning is a popular choice for Baltimore in mock drafts.
Mel Kiper of ESPN has the Ravens selecting Penning after they trade down from No. 14 to No. 18. NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah has Baltimore taking Penning at No. 14 for a variety of reasons.
"He's huge," Jeremiah said. "They just love collecting big human beings. You can go all the way to (Jonathan) Ogden, to Zeus (Orlando Brown Sr.), to Zeus Jr. (Orlando Brown Jr.) Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams, we could go on forever. They love big dudes. This is a big powerful guy, who in the run game can just move people.
"We see all the video of him playing tackle. He can play guard as well, too. He did a little bit of that at the Senior Bowl. He's just got a nasty temperament. I think with this Ravens offense, being able to move people is key. This guy uproots people and moves people at the line of scrimmage. This guy's going to put you in the ground."
At Northern Iowa, Penning blossomed into a star and became a nightmare for defensive linemen. He's serious about football, but likes to have fun. Watching horror movies before games helps to get Penning in a ferocious mindset. The tradition started when the Panthers had a road trip on Halloween Night and Penning needed to kill time on a five-hour bus ride. He decided to binge on Netflix and stumbled across the movie "Saw", and Penning was hooked.
"I had never seen it before," Penning said. "It was pretty good. Literally within 10 minutes, our center was sitting right behind me. It kind of spread across the team."
Listed at 6-foot-7, 322 pounds, Penning can be an intimidating presence but wasn't always that way. He was more than 100 pounds lighter five years ago.
"I was like 210 as a (high school) junior," said Penning, a native of Clear Lake, Iowa. "I've looked back at some pictures and wow, I was a twig. Tall, skinny, no muscle on me. By my senior year I started to bulk up a little bit, but Iowa and Iowa State had pretty much locked up their recruiting classes."
It all worked out for Penning, who is expected to be a first-round pick. The Ravens are looking for more tackle depth and Penning could fit as a starter at right tackle, a backup swing tackle, or even a starting left tackle if All-Pro Ronnie Stanley has not fully recovered from ankle surgery by Week 1.
Penning's stock rose after a strong week at the Senior Bowl, where he proved he could stand out against the top defensive linemen in college football. Those who didn't know anything about Penning prior to Senior Bowl week noticed when he started tossing defensive linemen around during one-on-one drills.
"It really shows it doesn't matter where you play – FBS, FCS, Division III – if you're good, you're good," Penning said. "I want to show I can translate my game from the FCS level to the NFL. The Senior Bowl is a great upgrade from what I was playing. Not as much as some of you guys think. There's some really good players at the FCS. But going to that NFL level, the next step, you have to be ready for it."
Penning looks and acts the part. It's not hard to imagine him throwing nasty blocks next season to spring J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, or Lamar Jackson for positive yards. There are times when Penning has to pinch himself, but he has earned the spotlight at the Combine and plans to make the most of it.
"To think I'd be in this situation five years ago? Insane," Penning said. "It just shows how much work I've put in."