Penei Sewell’s mauling days at Oregon were far from over.
The American Samoa-born, Utah-raised offensive tackle started as a 17-year-old true freshman during the 2018 season and received the Outland Trophy the following year as the nation’s top interior lineman. The Ducks were eyeing consecutive Rose Bowl victories and a run at national championship glory despite quarterback Justin Herbert’s graduation to the NFL. Sewell, a behemoth with significant power and shocking athleticism whom his football-coaching father described as “goofy,” entered the offseason undaunted.
Then came the world-altering COVID-19 pandemic and, eventually, the Pac-12’s wishy-washy response. After the conference initially canceled the season, Sewell opted out of playing. When it reversed course, a prospect whom one veteran NFL scout graded as having Pro Football Hall of Fame upside was already headed in a new direction, one where elite physical talents join forces to smash and outduel other genetic anomalies and competition-driven beings.
At nearly 6-foot-5 and 331 pounds, and with the capacity to manhandle other gargantuan linemen in the trenches yet also fluidly flatten second- and third-level defenders downfield, Sewell has comic book-esque athletic traits that make him ideal for the next step.
“One of the phrases I tell my guys is that the NFL is not a place for good college football players,” said Stanford coach David Shaw. “The NFL is a place for freaks, and Penei Sewell is a freak. To be that big and that explosive and athletic, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
“He’s about as special as it gets,” Herbert, the Los Angeles Chargers star and reigning Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year, said of his former blindside protector, a projected top-five or top-10 selection in next week’s NFL Draft who allowed just one sack over 1,376 snaps in 21 games.
There are plenty of big men who play small, unable to flip the mental switch from mild-mannered Bruce Banner to an Incredible Hulk building block whom teams covet when forming their grand roster plan. Starting with a football camp before his freshman year at St. George’s Desert Hills High School, Sewell grasped his football potential — and began developing the needed football mindset.