Getting to Know Donald Penn

You were an all-state basketball player back in your high school days. Do any of those skills translate to football?

A lot of them. That's one of the biggest reasons that made me such a good player in this league. I've been playing basketball my whole life. I think that really carries over a lot, especially with my footwork and being able to keep up on the edge with those quick guys. Now I'm a lot bigger and stronger, but I've got the same feet. I owe a lot to basketball.

At what point did you decide to focus on football?

In high school, I started focusing more on it in my senior year. Before my first year of college, I knew I couldn't do both. I got two offers in basketball, but they were both from small schools and I was already committed and signed to Utah State. I had some hoop dreams in college, but I thought I had a better chance of making it to the NFL.

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When you were in Tampa Bay, you did something called Turkey Time with the O-Line with your fellow offensive linemen. Can you talk about how you give back to the community around the Thanksgiving holiday?**

We started that eight years ago and I heard they did it again this year, so that's nine years strong. When we were there, it was getting bigger and bigger every year. We were feeding more and more families every year. It was great to be able to support and help people in need and it's even better when you can do it as a whole position group. It was one special thing that we started there and I'm glad those guys are still doing it even though we're not there anymore.

You also have your own charitable organization, the Donald Penn Foundation. What kind of work do you do?

Every year I do a football camp* *and I donate food to the turkey drive and I always do a Christmas drive around Christmas time. Last year, I took 25 kids and gave them all gift cards and took them shopping, and I did it the year before that. I plan on doing that again this year around the Oakland area. Each year I try to expand more and more with the things we do in my foundation.

Speaking of giving back, you and the other veterans work closely with the young guys on the team, especially on the offensive line, to bring them along. For you, what was the biggest difference between college and the pros?

The biggest thing was handling outside life. You don't have school, you don't have somebody constantly on you. When you leave the building, you're basically your own. You just learn that you're a grown man now with your own responsibilities, and that you wear the shield both on and off the football field.

Can you recall a veteran in Tampa Bay who helped bring you up to speed as a rookie?

Not really a player on the line, but one of my mentors was Derrick Brooks. He gave me a lot of advice, kind of took me under his wing and taught me a lot. He was telling me I was good before I knew I was good. I owe a lot to that guy.

You started your 120th consecutive game against the Rams, second most among tackles and third among all offensive linemen. What is the key to that kind of longevity?

I've been blessed, tremendously blessed. I just take care of my body, rest when I need to rest. I always tell everybody, there's a little luck, too. You can't go this long without anything serious happening – knock on wood – without some luck.

In your ninth NFL season, are there still aspects of your game you try to improve?

Every day. I'm my biggest critic. When you're not your biggest critic, that's when you start listening to yourself outside your head. I don't like doing bad. I want to be the best.

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