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Pennington knows how to win at clutch time

When it comes to clutch time, what seems to be so hard is really very simple as far as Chad Pennington is concerned.

Many fans remember the winning touchdown drive of Joe Montana in the Super Bowl that gave the San Francisco 49ers a win over the Cincinnati Bengals. With the pressure on, Montana entered the huddle and quickly relaxed his teammates.

“Hey, look down there by the end zone. Isn’t that John Candy?”

While Montana relaxed his team, it was his execution on the drive that was the different. And after nine years in the NFL and four years as the Marshall Thundering Herd starter, Pennington can say he’s “been there, done that” many times.

So what does Pennington do at clutch time? He explained the procedure last Thursday to a crowd at the first annual Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce dinner and auction.

“You focus on the fundamentals,” said Pennington. “It’s about the little things at crunch time. It’s the little things that matter.”

Spoken like a true quarterback. Or a coach, for that matter. Did I say coach? Well, that’s what Miami general manager Bill Parcells has been suggesting.

Pennington said Parcells has been pushing hard for the quarterback to considered a coaching career once his playing days are finished.

“I don’t have any desire to coach in the NFL. I’ve seen how hard coaches work and how much time they put in,” said Pennington who didn’t rule out coaching at the high school level.

“I’ve played at all three levels and there’s nothing like Friday nights. I have a passion for the high school level.”

Players, like coaches, must work hard in order to enjoy success. Pennington — a Rhodes’ Scholar at Marshall — said being a good student also helps a player to find additional success.

“I’m not the greatest athlete. My edge was always to outwork and out-prepare the next guy,” said Pennington. “I took notes. I learned that from the classroom. When I saw a guy come in (to a football meeting) without a notebook, I knew I had one more year of collecting $750,000.”

Some players don’t like going to class and wonder why Pennington was so committed to attending school on a regular basis.

“Do you like every football drill? No, but you do that to get better,” said Pennington.

As a two-time NFL Comeback Player of the Year including last season and the quarterback of Marshall unbeaten 1999 team, Pennington knows that the mental aspect of the game is very important.

Pennington said the Marshall teams during his tenure always believed they would win anytime they took the field. He has spoken to the current Herd players about adopting that type of attitude.

“It’s the mindset we had. My motto to the team is, ‘Why not us?’ It’s hard work and through working together,” said Pennington.

Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it.

–– Sinatra ––

Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.