Four-star running back Mario Pender nearly had his dream of playing for Florida State derailed. However, Pender finally received some good news from the FSU coaches about his future in Tallahassee on Friday morning.
Pender had long planned to early enroll at Florida State this January. But complications arose when fall classes he took at an alternative learning center in his hometown of Cape Coral, Fla. were initially not transferable to FSU. Pender's admission into FSU was denied this week, but he won an appeal on Friday that will allow him to enroll. That was the first time he was fully cleared to attend FSU.
"Right at 11 a.m. FSU running backs coach Eddie Gran and head coach Jimbo Fisher called me up and told me I have been cleared to enroll early to FSU," Pender said. "I was speechless, but just relieved that this stuff is over. I just told them yes sir I'm ready to roll, "added Pender.
The decision this morning closed out an intense battle with Tennessee and FSU. The Volunteers already had Pender cleared for admission, which left even more uncertainty if Pender had not been able to win his appeal.
"All I've ever wanted to do is play at FSU, so the news this morning certainly sent a shock of excitement up my body," Pender noted. "I'm just so relieved that I can now get on campus and get to work. I know we are leaving (about 1 p.m. ET Friday) for Tallahassee, so we will be there later this afternoon. I'm told my roommate will likely be Kelvin Benjamin."
The drama built last weekend Pender had his admission delayed to Florida State delayed because of the classes last fall.
"Yes sir the delay with admissions was because of the classes I had taken there at the alternative learning center, so I couldn't be admitted from what I was told until that was cleared up," he said. "There was some paperwork there that needed to be finalized, but now it looks like everything has been taken care of. I think it was mainly a question of how legit the learning center was because no D-I prospect had gone there and still gone to school, so that was really the question."
The waiting was the hardest thing for Pender. The FSU and Tennessee coaches were in constant contact with Pender and their family about possible options. Warchant.com and Volquest.com were both told that if Pender didn't make it as an early enrollee that it was very likely he would have been heading to Tennessee this weekend. However, Pender said he was hoping that the good news would come from Florida State.
"The coaches (Eddie Gran and Jimbo Fisher) just told me to hang in there that there are some problems with those classes that need to be verified, but that they were confident everything would work out," he said. "That was just the hardest part for me to do, sit around. It was real torture waiting on this decision. But at the same time it's motivation to show me how quickly everything that you want can be taken away."
Now that he has been admitted, Pender can now focus on the future. He'll come into a system at running back where the 'Noles are pretty slim with the departure of Jermaine Thomas and Ty Jones. In addition, there is the uncertainty with the health of Chris Thompson, who sustained a broken back this year. Pender has already developed quite the bond with FSU's new starting running back, rising sophomore Devonta Freeman.
"Yeah, Devonta and I are pretty tight because we have always talked about what we are going to do together in that backfield," Pender said. "He's a great back between the tackles and I feel as a back I can bring that lightning with my speed and quickness. I think today I'm just going to be checking into my dorm and get settled in Tallahassee."
As far as early expectations for the FSU offense, Pender certainly feels that the offense will make a big impact in 2012 with what they have with the running game and the experience they will also have on the offensive line.
"We have a lot of solid players returning on offense, but I just have to do my part and that is getting stronger, faster and learning that playbook once I get to Tallahassee," he said. "You look at the offense you see a lot more experience on the offensive line and we also have playmakers all over at the wide receiver position. I think this offense will be pretty strong next season."