Hart leaves school to pursue NFL dreams

One of Georgia State's most beloved football players, Penny Hart will forgo his redshirt senior season to enter the NFL draft. Photo submitted by Georgia State Athletics

Penny Hart is pound/for-pound one of the best players to have worn a Georgia State football jersey. The redshirt junior decided to forgo his redshirt senior season and enter the NFL draft.

Hart is looking to become the third Panther receiver in the NFL along with Albert Wilson and Robert Davis.

Hart will test the NFL waters after what was a down year for his standards. He doesn’t know what will happen, but he is confident in his abilities and what can happen.

“The biggest thing was that I’m a faithful man, and I believe what I believe, following Christ,” Hart said. “He told me that it was time, so I felt like it was time to go.”

Football is a very physical game, and it can have many effects on the body. The career of a football player can be shortened because of the beating that players take.

“But also, with the fact that if I’m going to do it, it’s gotta be now at the peak of my game,” Hart said. “I’m gonna be 23 coming next July, so time is more valuable than anything. I felt like at this point I had to do what I had to do.

“More than any other decision, it was Christ telling me to move on and do other things,” Hart said. “I’m graduating this December (2018) as well, so it felt like that time to make that next step.”

This season Hart caught 49 passes for 669 yards and two touchdowns. That is a strong contrast from the 2017 season when he caught 74 passes for 1,121 yards and eight touchdowns.

There are several reasons for the drop in numbers— No. 1 is that he was clear and away the Panthers’ best player, so teams were game planning for him and taking him away. Additionally, Hart was working in the second year of the offense with a new quarterback, so there was some adjustment there as well.

Despite the drop in numbers, it’s not stopping the receiver from taking his shot at the league.

“If somebody is asking me a question like that, they pretty much already know what the answer is going to be,” Hart said. “On the other half, they just want to see how I’m gonna respond to it.”

He believes that this season was even better than when he was putting up the high numbers because every other part of his game grew leaps and bounds.

“Honestly, if they turn on the film from any year before, and they turn on the film and watch this year, they’ll see that I’m a better receiver than I’ve ever been in my career, a better player,” Hart said. “From a receiver standpoint, this is the best year because these are the best routes I’ve ever run, most I’ve caught the ball with my hands, being fundamentally sound in everything I do across the board, blocking”

Hart was recently added to the Reese’s Senior Bowl roster, so he will have an entire week of drills, and a game to show his skills to NFL scouts. If teams do have questions about his down statistical numbers, he will have a chance to prove that they were just a fluke.

Hart has the benefit of speaking with several former Panthers at his side that went through the draft process, including Davis, a sixth round selection by the Washington Redskins in 2017. This is helpful to him because small school prospects typically have different experiences than most players.

“I got a lot of people that are in the league right now that I’m able to speak with, Rob [Robert Davis] of course, and explain the process,” Hart said. “Albert [Wilson] consistently talks to me, making sure that he’s pouring back into me, helping me with the process.”

Since the season ended, Hart has hired an agent and began working towards his goal of playing in the NFL. He knows that it is a long process, but he’s aware of what’s ahead.

“I’m in grind mode right now,” Hart said. “ I never get out of it; it’s just different intensity levels that I try to get to. I’m making sure my body is aligned, and everything is straight so that when things get underway, like training, I can be 100 percent mentally and physically.”

Being from a small school and being a smaller receiver could hurt his draft stock. Hart is listed on the Georgia State roster at 5-feet- 8 inches tall and 180 pounds. This is not discoursing him, but he is prepared if he is not drafted and has to sign as an undrafted free agent.

“I feel like, with everything that I’ve done up until this point with this game, I would be satisfied,” Hart said. “If that’s the turn that it decided to take then I’m okay with that.

“Obviously, I wouldn’t be ecstatic about it or necessarily happy, but I would understand that if that’s the plan that God has for me and I need to do something else and take my purpose and continue to move throughout my life and do something else, then that’s what I have to do, and I’m okay with that,” Hart said.

Hart finished his Georgia State career having won the Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year and the Autonation Cure Bowl. He was also a member of the most accomplished Georgia State football team ever and one of the best players in program history.