Alcovy High senior Jaylin Penny didn’t plan on becoming a wide receiver.
Before middle school, Penny didn’t even pay much attention to football.
But along with his friendly personality and his unrivaled work ethic, Penny has struck fear into the hearts of defensive backs in Region 2-AAAAAA, using his speed, hands and determination to help the Tigers to a 7-2 record this season.
Penny and the Tigers are on the hunt for a region title this Friday, with a showdown against Lovejoy at Sharp Stadium to determine the region champion.
For Penny, his high school journey comes to an end, but the adversity he faced at the start of his career has made him into the player he is today.
“I started playing when I was 6 years old back in the first grade in Miami,” Penny said. “Back then, I didn’t pay that much attention to football. It was just something I did. I moved here in the fifth grade and when I got to middle school, I got really interested in middle school. That’s when I really started to get serious and pay attention to football.”
Penny said that his start at wide receiver wasn’t his choice.
“I actually became a wide receiver when I was trying out for my middle school team at quarterback,” he said. “That didn’t go too well. When the receiver threw the ball back to me, I caught it, and my coaches saw that I could catch pretty well. They told me to go to the receiving line, and that’s how I started playing wide receiver.”
Lucky for the Tigers and coach Kirk Hoffman, Penny stuck with his new position, becoming the Tigers’ deep threat on the receiving end of quarterback Tristen Payne’s passes.
Hoffman said that during Penny’s time at Alcovy, the receiver has only gotten better and more polished as a player, and as a teammate.
“He has gotten better and better every year I have had him,” Hoffman said. “He comes to practice every day and works. He never has a bad day. I’ve never seen him pout or get upset. He’s not one of those ‘throw me the ball, throw me the ball’ wide receivers. He understands our offense and what we’re trying to do. He’s a great teammate.”
Penny may not be the prima donna athlete many wide receivers are perceived to be, but he has made his presence felt on the field.
The senior posted his best game of the season on Sept. 19 against Jackson, grabbing five catches for 116 yards and two scores.
Penny has been a show-stopper from the start to the end of games for the Tigers this season, opening Alcovy’s Sept. 27 game at Luella with an 80-yard touchdown reception.
Penny said that a receiver must have four things to be successful.
“You have to have good hands and be able to catch the ball. You have to know your routes. You have to have some speed, and you have to be able to concentrate,” he said.
Penny has also worked on his run blocking this season, a critical element to the Tigers’ rushing game.
“Now we know we can run behind him too,” Hoffman said. “It adds an element to our offense. He can either hurt you with a long catch, or flatten your defender on the run, because he’s going to get the block.”
With this week’s contest against the Wildcats deciding the Tigers’ postseason fate, Penny said he and Alcovy just want to continue paying well.
“I want to make it to the playoffs and make a good run,” Penny said. “We want to go deep into the playoffs.”
With Penny’s final high school regular season game just days away, Hoffman said that he doesn’t think his receiver is finished playing after this season.
“He just keeps getting better,” he said. “I think we’ll see him play on Saturdays. He’s worked too hard not to.”
Game time against the Wildcats is set for 7:30 p.m.