Joel Penton, former Ohio State football player, strives to send a positive message as a motivational speaker

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On January 22, students and staff gathered into the gym, huddling together in the bleachers, awaiting the arrival of guest motivational speaker Joel Penton. 

Soon after the chatter of the students quieted down and a short prelude performance of Penton’s accompanied band, he walked to the middle of the gym, becoming the epicenter amid a crowd waiting to hear his message. 

Beneath the beaming lights, Penton shared his message, and according to him, his message is one he gives to more than 100 schools per year, a message of great value, and a message he hopes will motivate others.

“[When students hear my message],” Penton said, “I hope they will be motivated to make and keep their own commitments. I’ve experienced things that have incredible value in my life and seen them have incredible value in others.”

According to Penton, if he could choose one word to describe his overall message, it would be “commitment.” 

The ideas he communicated during his visit specifically revolved around dedication, which he used his own personal experiences in his football career and personal friendships to exemplify. He explained how devotion to activities—whether it be sports, school work, etc.—is beneficial for students and why working hard is important for success.

The notions he expresses stem from his past and his choices to dedicate his time to football. Penton, who played on Ohio State’s football team, also had the opportunity to play in the NFL; however, he turned down the offer in order to begin his speaking career.

“I made the decision for a few reasons,” Penton said. “I did not anticipate to be a top-three round draft pick. I was dealing with some injuries, and most importantly, I had a unique opportunity to start speaking full time. I wanted to jump right in to start my speaking career. So far, I’m very glad I made the decision.”

Although Penton doesn’t recall the exact moment he chose this career path, there are several aspects of his background that fostered his decision. Throughout high school and college, he dedicated a significant amount of his time for football training while avoiding negative external pressure from his peers. 

Also, in 2006, he won the Wuerffel Trophy, which is a prestigious national award that is given to one college football player that exemplifies achievement in academics, community service, and athletics.

Therefore, Penton uses his past and personal experiences to illustrate how significant steps can be taken forward with small steps of everyday commitment.

I wanted to become a speaker because so many people in my life have positively impacted me,” Penton said, “and I felt compelled to positively impact others. And as an athlete speaking, opportunities were given to me.”

Throughout his time motivating others and speaking to students, Penton is personally motivated by his faith. He is also motivated by “amazing motivating people” in his life, among them is his wife.

There are many times students share with me the ways their own stories relate to mine and how they were encouraged to hear about my journey. Those times give me the encouragement to continue sharing with others.”

Since his religion is a principal part of his life that drives his actions, he centers his message around it and Jesus Christ while speaking at private schools of the same religious affiliation.

However, both his notion of commitment and a faith-centered mindset have led him to where he is today and what he chooses to talk about in his speeches.

“I’d like to think the world would be a better place as people follow through with their commitments and see their lives changed by Jesus,” Penton said. “However, I certainly don’t want to pretend I have all the answers.”

As Penton progresses in his career, he is slowly switching over from motivational speaking to training speakers and growing a non-profit organization.  

Although his work may slowly grow further beyond motivational speaking, his roots of sharing his stories will continue to inspire him to send a positive message.

“I’m not sure I can point to one specific moment,” Penton said, “but there are many times students share with me the ways their own stories relate to mine and how they were encouraged to hear about my journey. Those times give me the encouragement to continue sharing with others.”