Posted: 3:29 pm Sunday, January 16th, 2011

Trey Pendergrass, J’Rod Beard newest members of Eastern Illinois family 

By Matt Porter

Trey Pendergrass walked around in the snow Sunday morning, trying to make up his mind on where to play college football this fall. During a phone call with his brother Brandon, who plays at Wake Forest, Pendergrass heard the advice he needed to hear.

Pendergrass

Pendergrass

“He just told me to ask myself if I was comfortable with the coaches and my surroundings, and if I could picture myself being there for the next four years. If I could answer all those questions, then I should commit,” Pendergrass said.

After visiting Eastern Illinois’ chilly Charleston, Illinois campus this weekend, Pendergrass said yes. He flew up with Atlantic senior J’Rod Beard, who also committed to the Panthers.

EIU gets a double shot of dynamic playmakers. Pendergrass, a 5-foot-6, 155-pound running back, sliced through defenses for Jupiter Christian last year. He was named the Post’s Small Schools Offensive Player of the Year after rushing for 2,018 and 28 touchdowns on 191 carries.

Beard, a 5-foot-9, 180-pound wide receiver, was Atlantic’s most consistent home-run threat. He led the team with 513 yards and 7 touchdowns on 33 catches.

Beard

Beard

Pendergrass and Beard are the latest members of Eastern Illinois’ large Palm Beach County family. Eastern Illinois has six Palm Beach County alums on its roster, more than any other out-of-state school besides Hampton University (Va.), which also has six.

Beard’s brother Nick, who also played at Atlantic, is a redshirt freshman safety who played in all 11 games last season, recording 38 tackles and two pass breakups for the Panthers (2-9).

Eastern Illinois’ roster also includes Glades Central alums Tavares Crawford and Artavious Dowdell, Palm Beach Gardens grads Jimmy Lera and Randolph Tribble and former American Heritage running back Jake Walker.

They all ran together this weekend like a small army. They ate dinner together on Friday, saw two basketball games on Saturday, toured the football facilities and played cards that night. On Sunday, neither Pendergrass nor Beard agonized over their decision.

“The boys welcomed me like I was already on the team,” Beard said. “The place is nice. Everything’s within walking distance. It’s cold, but I can deal with that.”

Pendergrass can, too.

“It kinda felt like I wasn’t too far away from home,” he said.