The past two years, Grand Valley junior running back and linebacker Jonathan Pena has been a team leader on and off the field. On the field, he’s a tough player to deal with for opposing offenses and defenses due to his small stature, speed and high football IQ. But what has left him wanting more the past few years — despite rushing for 627 yards and five touchdowns offensively and adding 39 tackles and half a sack in two years — is his struggles to stay healthy for his teammates and coaches.
That’s not a knock on Pena, who plays a violent style of football. You get banged up in football, and over the past two years it’s happened to Pena more than most, not that he’s complaining.
Staying on the field consistently is a goal of Pena’s this fall, considering the Cardinals are shaping up to be the best version of themselves that they’ve been in quite a few years.
“Cramps is one of the biggest nagging injuries for me,” Pena said. “I find myself on the sideline a lot due to cramps throughout the season, so I’ve been eating more bananas, drinking pickle juice and taking potassium tablets. I’ve yet to have cramps since I’ve started doing those things, so hopefully it stays that way, but during the offseason, I wrestled and went into lifting. I’m hoping to be more compact and able to take some blows better.”
If Pena can stay on the field consistently this fall, the Cardinals’ offense under third-year head coach Tim Lenard gets that much harder to stop, considering Pena forms a terrific duo in the backfield with fellow junior Levi Nolan, to go along with standout quarterback Jeff Holbrook and a good set of receivers led by senior Laytham Magana and juniors…
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