Back Penny Hart’s Historic Success

Penny Hart’s Historic Success

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Penny Hart, with 42 receiving yards in his last game, moved into the top ten in the Sun Belt all-time.

In Georgia State's 46-14 victory over Louisiana-Monroe, the Panthers, team-wide, made a statement in their Sun Belt opener. Star wide receiver Penny Hart made history. He, with 42 receiving yards, moved into the top ten in the league all-time with 2,548 receiving yards. Hart joins a group that includes current NFL players Robert Davis, T.Y. Hilton and J.D. McKissic. With 452 more yards, Hart would become just the 4th Sun Belt wideout to reach 3,000 yards. He is less than 1,000 yards from Hilton's record mark. Keep in mind Hart is a redshirt junior.

Hart, though limited to just two halves of football in 2016, has caught a pass in every single one of his 32 college games. Fittingly, his first-ever reception was a 54-yard touchdown strike in Georgia State's 2015 season-opener with Charlotte. Throw in Hart's encore performance in a win over New Mexico State and two of his first four catches, and three of his first nine, all went for scores. In Hart's introduction to Power Five football, he caught nine passes for 128 yards at nationally-ranked Oregon.

The rest is for the record books.

Both of Hart's two full seasons at Georgia State resulted in him leading the Sun Belt in receiving. This fall, he is currently third in the league with 24 receptions and fourth with 267 yards. With 91 yards against Western Michigan and seven grabs versus Louisiana-Monroe, Hart is now settling in. He, in the win over the Warhawks on Saturday, also took a fourth quarter punt 49 yards to the house, the first in Panthers' history. Hart is the lone player in the conference with a touchdown catch and a return for score.

Adding context to Hart's career; the only players since 2000 with at least 2,500 receiving yards and a punt return for a touchdown in 35 games or fewer are Keenan Allen, Justin Blackmon, Justin Gage, Jordy Nelson, Charles Rogers, Golden Tate, Bobby Wade and Hart. Of that group the Georgia State star is part of, the other seven members were all selected in the 5th round of the NFL Draft or higher, two were top five picks, there are four Biletnikoff Awards, multiple Pro Bowl bids and Super Bowl rings. Only Rogers, the number two overall selection in the 2002 NFL Draft, accomplished the aforementioned sooner than Hart did. 

Off to a 1-0 start in Sun Belt play, the Panthers will next test themselves with road trips to face league brass Arkansas State and Troy. Hart's production, in those games, will be especially key. In his lone career contest against the Red Wolves, Hart caught seven passes for 128 yards as a freshman 2015. He has scored touchdowns in each of his two outings with the Trojans. October, overall, has proved to be a springboard for Hart; a year ago he recorded 30 catches for 452 yards and six touchdowns in college football's second month.

Clearly, Hart, who also earned Athletic Director's Honor Roll recognition in fall of 2017 and spring of 2018, is one of college football's best players and a talent with very few peers. Each week, it seems, that club is becoming more exclusive.

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