After failing to take a tight end in the 2014 recruiting class, tight end coach Jeff Genyk said on national signing day that recruiting his position in 2015 would be a top priority. He wasn't kidding.
"This is awesome," Penniston told BadgerNation. "I've always been a big fan of Wisconsin, but I wanted to make sure it was the right fit for me as a student-athlete. It did, so I knew it was the perfect place to be athletically, academically and socially."
Ranked an early three-star recruit and the No.13 tight end in the country by Scout.com, Penniston committed to the Badgers over offers from Florida State, Miami and Washington State, as well as interest from Northwestern, Ohio State, UCLA, USC and others.
The 6-4, 220-pound Penniston first popped on Wisconsin's radar last summer when he flew out to Madison to participate in one of Wisconsin's three day high school summer camps.
"Coach Genyk said it was a big deal that I was able to get out there," said Penniston. "They really didn't know me when I got out there because of the new staff turnover, but having him see me in person was big. I showed them what they wanted to see on the field and they got a chance to meet my parents, so it was definitely a good decision."
With Penniston having felt comfortable with the coaching staff since last summer, calling them to give them his verbal commitment was the highlight of the evening.
"Coach Andersen was definitely very excited about it, saying he was fired up," said Penniston. "Coach Genyk was fired up. He had known for awhile that committing was what I wanted to do and that I was leaning toward it. He was really excited for me to get up there. Coach Kauha'aha'a was excited, too. He was in a meeting, but when he found out he got really excited."
Although a West Coast kid, Penniston has Midwest ties with his dad being from Minnesota and having other family members living in Grafton and Port Washington. That alone was part of the reason why he was comfortable with the Badgers.
"I probably won't get home sick," said Penniston. "Every college kid gets homesick at some point, so it's a definitely plus to have close family out there who I can rely on, just go home for a quick meal. My parents will be just a flight away, too.
"I firmly believe this that Coach Andersen and Coach Genyk will really look after me. Coach Andersen is a father figure, making sure that I am comfortable and on the right path."
Penniston is the second commit of the 2015 signing class, joining Sandy (UT) Jordan three-star quarterback Austin Kafentzis.
"He's a heck of a quarterback," said Penniston. "When I was up there over the summer, I threw with him and developed some chemistry with him. He threw a lot when I was out there."
That opportunity may come sooner rather than later, as the Badgers will have graduated four scholarship tight ends in the two years prior to Penniston stepping foot on campus.
"That's something that I like at Wisconsin, especially since they play multiple tight ends at one time," said Penniston. "Getting on the field as a freshman, I want to hit the field, get some reps, get some receptions, get some blocks and I am really going to push myself."