Note: The following appears in the NC State gameday football program
In the realm of college athletics, nicknames are not simply given. Rather, they are earned, and oftentimes, nicknames stand the test of time, becoming much more than just clever monikers. As it relates to Clemson offensive lineman Seth “Bear” Penner, the backstory and symbolism behind his nickname makes up the very origin story of how his lifelong dream of suiting up for the Tigers came to fruition.
Although his south Florida roots may not indicate as much, Penner has always had orange and purple coursing through his veins. A native of Naples, Penner comes from a family teeming with several long-time Clemson supporters, as his mother, brother, sister and sister-in-law all graduated from Clemson. After growing up in a house with orange, purple and white walls, the decision to play for the Tigers was not a difficult one.
“It’s been great,” said Penner about his Tiger football career. “I came at a good time. I’ve been a Clemson fan my whole life, so it’s been a dream come true.”
Brought on as a preferred walk-on, Penner initially caught the eye of offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell after showing out at several youth football camps, which Penner began attending in eighth grade
At one camp, Penner attracted attention from everyone in attendance for his outstanding performance. Fresh off taking part in a separate football camp hosted by Mercer, Penner just so happened to be wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the phrase “Bear Down” that he received on his visit. Therefore, Penner was naturally nicknamed “Bear” while competing at the Clemson camp, and due to Penner’s robust 325-pound frame and tenacious blocking style, the epithet stuck.
In addition to receiving an alias at the camp, Penner also received an offer from Caldwell to join the Tigers as a preferred walk-on, which Penner was quick to accept. That set the stage for a four-year journey of learning under Caldwell that has helped make him become a better pass blocker as well as a better man.
“He’s an awesome coach and a great guy,” stated Penner of his position coach. “I really respect coach Caldwell for everything that he’s done to make me a better player.”
A hard worker, Penner has made the most of his time spent as an offensive guard for the Clemson football team. Since joining the program in 2015, he has made an appearance in 10 games, and he will forever cherish the memorable experiences gleaned by taking the field for the Tigers.
“I’m thankful for all of the places I’ve been able to visit and the life lessons I’ve been able to learn by playing football for Clemson. I’ll always remember grinding it out on the scout team with my buddies. Winning the national championship in Florida, which is where I’m from, is also something that I’ll never forget.”
The senior is aiming to make the most of the final leg of his football journey. Set to graduate in 2019 with a degree in agricultural mechanization & business, he plans to pursue a career in the agricultural or construction field. Regardless of the specifics of his professional pursuits, he knows that his experience playing alongside so many other motivated Tigers has prepared him for whatever the future has in store.
“Being able to become friends and work with so many talented guys has been great. Learning from them has been an awesome experience.”
It takes a special player to live up to a nickname as bold as “Bear,” but Penner has certainly done so. While he is certain to excel in his future line of work, his days of bearing down in the pocket and blocking for the quarterback will always be appreciated.