A GoFundMe page has been set up to assist the former ND star running back.
A great one from Notre Dame’s not too distant past is hospitalized in Dallas, Texas, with a serious infection. The condition has necessitated a partial amputation of a leg.
The news came over the weekend that Eric Penick ( ND ’72-’75) is in need of some assistance to help defray the costs associated with this battle. A Notre Dame classmate and friend, Eddie Hill, has set up a GoFundMe site that includes more details, and a link to donate. If you are so inclined here is a link to the website: Eric Penick GoFundMe:
I was able to speak briefly with Penick and his friend and ND classmate, Eddie Hill on Monday on the phone from his hospital room in Dallas. Hill says that he is anticipating significant costs to maintain Eric’s apartment over and above insurance during his rehabilitation, which is likely to take place in a long term care facility.
Despite the pain he was in, Eric was alert and his spirits seemed good. He was quickly responsive to a question about his lovable pet dog Zoe, “the mutt”. Zoe is presently in the care of another friend and another part of the financial need Eric has, is to assure long term care for Zoe while he recovers from the surgery.
Sadly, Eric told me that he lost his spouse of 36 years Sandra, in 2018. A 2015 article that appeared in his high school’s alumni publication reported that he has five children. He told me via email a couple of years ago that he has eleven grandchildren.
Eric expressed amazement at and thankfulness for the love and kindness being shown by friends and strangers who are helping him at this challenging time.
(Editor’s note: Penick was featured on Fighting Irish Preview several years ago as an “All-time Irish Hero”. Here is an update of that article.)
Eric Penick: All-Time Irish Hero
Eric Penick came to Notre Dame in 1971 out of Gilmour Academy near Cleveland with a reputation as a big, lightning fast runner. While at Gilmour his junior year, he had won state titles in the 100 and 220 yard dash. That was impressive, but as a senior he outdid himself. Penick accomplished the rare feat of sweeping three events at the State of Ohio championship meet, the 100, 220 and 440. Those three first place finishes resulted in enough team points to singlehandedly earn his school a state championship.
Ara Parseghian and ND fans were excited to welcome this phenom to South Bend. Penick had all the attributes of a great runner. As a track champion, His impressive speed was obvious, and at 6-1 209 he was unusually big, for the time, to be carrying the football, in a non-fullback role.
He broke out as a sophomore in 1972 and led the Irish in rushing with 727 yards and five touchdowns. Then in 1973 he played a huge role in leading the Irish to a national championship. Penick was second on the team in rushing that season with 586 yards and seven TDs.
Two of those scores were pivotal for the Irish in 1973.
The first big score came against USC who was ranked #6 nationally at the time. In the third quarter with the Irish holding a tenuous 13-7 lead, Penick took a pitch to the left at his own 15 yard line, followed some key blocks and exploded 85 yards to the end zone. Penick was mobbed on the field and Notre Dame Stadium roared. The Irish went on to a 23-14 victory over their archrival.
Penick’s second huge TD in the 1973 season occurred against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. With the Tide leading late in the 3rd quarter 17-14, the Irish recovered a fumble at the Alabama 12. On the first play of the drive, Penick took a counter action handoff from Tom Clements, off tackle to the left and scampered in to the end zone.
The Irish prevailed in what was dubbed, “The Battle of New Orleans”, 24-23, and were awarded the 1973, national championship.
Fate however then stepped in and changed his trajectory which seemed to have him on its way to the NFL.
During spring practice leading up to his senior year, Penick suffered a devastating injury that included a broken leg and torn ligaments in his ankle. The recovery was slow and he was limited to just 12 carries during his final ND season.
After being drafted by and spending a short time with the Denver Broncos, Penick put his ND degree to good use. He went into the financial consulting business and spent many years with United Lending Partners. In 1985 his work took him the Dallas, Texas and he liked it so much, he never left.
Penick retired several years ago but has stayed busy in business part time and as a minister for troubled youth and tutoring the disadvantaged.