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Trevor Penning isn't expecting any handouts.
He wants to start at left tackle for the New Orleans Saints, who selected him in the first round (No. 19 overall) of this year's draft, and the path to that status was aided by the fact that Terron Armstead signed with Miami as an unrestricted free agent.
But even men as mountainous as Penning (6 feet 7, 322 pounds) understand that small steps have to be taken.
"That's the goal, (but) you've got to earn it," said Penning, an All-American at Northern Iowa and the only offensive lineman in Football Championship Subdivision to be a finalist for the Walter Payton Award, presented annually to the FCS national offensive player of the year. "That's really the goal – (but) you've got to earn the spot. Improve every day and go from there."
The first steps were made last weekend, at the Saints' rookie minicamp, where Penning began the process of settling in as an NFL player.
"He's starting off over on the left-hand side, and we're going to evaluate things as we go along," Coach Dennis Allen said.
That's the plan, given that right tackle belongs to Ryan Ramczyk, a 2017 first-round pick who was a first- or second-team All-Pro from 2018-20.
"We've gotten a lot of work with Ram on the right-hand side," Allen said. "We've got James Hurst, too, so we feel pretty good about where we're at offensive line-wise."
Hurst, an eight-year veteran who started 15 of 17 games last season, is capable of starting at four offensive line positions, including left tackle. But first round NFL picks aren't selected to be understudies and extra linemen in heavy formations.
Penning got a taste of his future duties in minicamp.
"Every day we're installing something new," he said. "It's the NFL. There's a lot of stuff that you have to have the capability to be able to do. Just one day at a time. You install more and more, you've got to study it and get it ready for the next day. It's a lot being thrown at you, it's hard stuff, but you've got to be willing to put in that work."
The early work days will help speed up the process later.
"Slowly, over time," Penning said. "When you're doing walk-throughs and stuff you're kind of slowly trying to think of everything in your head. It feels way faster. But then once you start getting used to all the calls you make and all the other things, you play so much faster. That's the period we're in right now. Come this fall, you're going to be used to it, you're going to be flying around."