Pennington OK if Cato passes him

Former NFL quarterback Chad Pennington realizes the inevitable is at hand as far his career rankings at Marshall University.

The former Thundering Herd player was a major reason why the football program in Huntington won conference championships and finished unbeaten at 13-0 as a Division I-A program after defeating Brigham Young University in the 1999 Motor City Bowl.

Pennington closed out his career as the school record-holder in terms of completions (1,026), attempts (1,619), passing yards (13,143) and touchdowns (115).

Under the director of head coach Doc Holliday the past four years, Marshall has thrived off the no-huddle, run-and-shoot offense and posted incredible numbers – especially at quarterback with Rakeem Cato. Barring injury, next season for his senior year Cato should rewrite the record books established by Pennington.

Pennington, who was the keynote speaker at Monday’s Marshall University Alumni Thundering Bison Club of the Mid-Ohio Valley Scholarship and Vision Campaign at the Grand Pointe Conference Center, would be the first person to welcome Cato’s feat.

“I don’t mind him breaking my records at all – I really don’t,” Pennington said. “(Former Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich) and I have talked about this. When I was playing, I was shooting for the guys who played before me – guys like Michael Payton, Todd Donnan and Tony Petersen. Byron was then shooting for me.

“Those records are made to be broken. If Cato or any other player is breaking those records, then our program is doing really well.”

Pennington currently lives in Lexington, Ky., and is a consultant for the NFL Legends program, which was created by commissioner Roger Goodell. According to Pennington, the program’s purpose is to “reconnect former players back to the league and to celebrate what they’ve given to the league.”

The NFL Legends program serves as a bridge between a player’s career and his retirement, and to get them acclimated to life after football.

Pennington’s NFL career covered 11 seasons – eight with the New York Jets and three with the Miami Dolphins before officially retiring following the 2010 season. On two occasions, he was named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year (2006, 2008).

In addition to working with the NFL, Pennington donates his time toward fundraising efforts at Marshall University and attending Thundering Herd football games. He has created a bond with Cato on both a personal and professional level.

“We have developed a strong friendship over the last four years,” Pennington said. “It’s been a really neat process to see him grow from an inner-city kid from Miami. Coming to Huntington as an 18-year-old and to see where he is 3 1/2 years later, it’s special to watch.

“It’s a unique bond. I’m a southern boy from East Tennessee. The bond is the game of football. The bond is being a quarterback. The bond is two human beings who have gravitated toward each other.”

Their taste in music may differ, but Pennington says it’s all good.

“I kid all my friends that as far as different types of music we may listen to … really we’re all talking about the same thing, but it has a different twang to it,” Pennington said.

Contact Kerry Patrick at kpatrick@newsandsentinel.com