Back Georgia State’s Hart and Soul

Georgia State’s Hart and Soul

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
Follow us at Twitter.com/SouthernPigskin.  Become a fan at the SouthernPigskin.com Facebook Page

Penny Hart, like the program he plays for, is history in motion.

Hart's first catch ever was a 53-yard touchdown strike against Charlotte, a fitting introduction for a player who now doesn't need one at all.

Going back to the beginning, what Penny Hart has done is absolutely astonishing. In just 27 games, he has 153 receptions for 2,281 yards and 17 touchdowns. Multiple major records are within reach for Hart, as the all-time Sun Belt marks for career receptions, yards and touchdowns are all on the horizon. Literally and figuratively, the Georgia State star is chasing the big names that came before him, including Panthers-turned-pros Albert Wilson and Robert Davis, a former teammate. Hart, like the program he plays for, is history in motion.    

With just modest production, by his standards, this fall, Hart would become the seventh member of the Sun Belt's 200-catch club; there, he would join the likes of current NFLers T.Y. Hilton, J.D. McKissic and Davis. Similarly, Hart should reach the 3,000-yard milestone with relative ease, where only Hilton, Davis and Jerrel Jernigan currently reside. Hart, before the season's stretch run, may top 20 touchdowns, settling alongside Eric Thomas, Hilton, pro Ladarius Green, Kerry Wright and Jonathan Quinn. 

A big picture frame of reference snapshot offers good insight into Hart's dramatic statistical success. In his two healthy years, Hart has averaged 72.5 receptions for 1,110 yards and eight scores. Entering his redshirt junior season, continued median production for two more seasons, plus his 2016 numbers, would result in approximate final totals of 298 catches for 4,461 yards and 32 touchdowns; those figures, across the board in all of FBS football, would trail only Corey Davis, Justin Hardy and Ryan Browles this millennium.

Should Hart complete his full eligibility, avoid injury and continue at his current pace, he would be poised to finish in the top ten in history in receiving yards, potentially, even, inside the top three.

Already, Hart stands alone. Despite being just a rising redshirt junior, he leads all active FBS receivers in yards and touchdowns. Hart also paces the country in career catches per game. He has played two full seasons and has led the Sun Belt in receiving yards both times. Without question, Hart deserves All-American consideration this summer.

It didn't Hart long to make a statement at the college level. His first catch ever was a 53-yard touchdown strike against Charlotte, a fitting introduction for a player who now doesn't need one at all. Hart has caught at least one pass in every single game since. The very next week, he, in his Sun Belt debut, hauled in eleven receptions for 150 yards and two scores against New Mexico State. Hart's power five opener resulted in nine catches for 128 yards at nationally-ranked Oregon.

With plenty of opportunities still remaining, the rest is history. 

To date, only injury has been able to slow Hart and even that was temporary. While a broken foot cost him much of the 2016 season, Hart bounced back with a career high 74 receptions and 1,121 yards a year ago, earning his school-record second 1,000-yard effort. He earned first-team All-Sun Belt honors just as he did as a freshman, joining Davis as the only Georgia State players to earn such recognition twice. Last fall, Hart helped the Panthers to a winning league record and first-ever postseason victory, a Cure Bowl triumph over Western Kentucky.

Hart, from 2015 and 2017 alone, has nine 110-yard plus performances. He has 19 games with a minimum of five catches in those campaigns. In 13 outings over the two years, Hart reached the endzone at least once. When he scores a touchdown, Georgia State is 10-3 in Hart's career; when he reaches 130 yards or more, the Panthers are a perfect 5-0. 

What's more, Hart recently added Athletic Director's Honor Roll to his student-athlete resume.

Clearly, Hart is one of college football's premier talents. Furthermore, he is carrying on Georgia State's proud tradition of downfield play, following in the footsteps of Wilson, Davis and others. Hart, while building on all that his predecessors accomplished, is making his own way. At 5'8'', 180 pounds, Hart's impact is as big as it gets. 

A local product, Hart represents both Georgia State's progress and potential. Remarkably, more is yet to come.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports