The Daily Nole

Mario Pender: An FSU Career Unfulfilled

Mitch White/FSU athletics

A Florida State career that began with so much promise ended in disgrace on Saturday as redshirt senior running back Mario Pender was dismissed from the team after being arrested on charges of domestic violence by strangulation and resisting arrest without violence.

Pender became the second FSU player to be dismissed in as many years for violent actions toward a woman. Last offseason, quarterback De’Andre Johnson was dismissed from the team after surveillance video captured Johnson punching a woman at a Tallahassee bar.

Johnson at the time, was an early enrollee set to begin his freshman year. Johnson owned up to his mistake and was given an opportunity to continue his football career at East Mississippi Community College and will probably get another chance to play at an FBS program. Given that Pender is 23 with a history of injury and then factoring in the horrific details of the accusations against him, he likely won’t be afforded that same luxury.

A member of Florida State’s 2012 top 5 national recruiting class, Pender himself was a top 40 national recruit. Pender was seen as a home run threat with the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, but just getting onto the field was a struggle.

During fall practice in 2012, Pender suffered a groin injury that kept him out the entire season. The following year, Pender was ruled academically ineligible as the Seminoles finished 14-0 and captured their first national championship in 14 years.

Pender finally got his first taste of action for Florida State in 2014. On his first career carry, Pender raced 11 yards for a touchdown in top-ranked FSU’s 37-31 season-opening victory over Oklahoma State.

Pender would play in nine games in 2014, helping Florida State win a third straight ACC title and secure a spot in the first-ever College Football Playoff. That season however, was still marred by an ankle injury, which propelled freshman running back Dalvin Cook to a bigger role in the backfield. Cook would become the first FSU freshman to eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark in 2014, which catapulted him to the top of the depth chart for the start of 2015.

As FSU’s No. 2 behind Cook to begin the new year, Pender again saw his season get off to a good start. In a 59-16 victory over Texas State, Pender finished with a career-high 92 yards rushing and 126 total yards from scrimmage to go along with a touchdown.

After victories over South Florida and Boston College, Pender’s health would again become a concern. The Cape Coral product was forced to have season-ending surgery to repair complications from a collapsed lung suffered in practice.

Through four seasons, Pender appeared in just 12 games for the Seminoles. He totaled just 346 yards rushing and six total touchdowns.

Entering 2016, fans had hoped that Pender could stay injury-free and become one of the feel-good stories for an FSU team with limitless potential. The final chapter to the book of Pender’s FSU career instead, is far from something to feel good about.

With football likely in his rear view, the best that can be hoped for regarding Pender is that he learns from his actions and becomes a productive member of society. As it stands right now, the accusations against Pender serve as a sad ending to a career that was never really able to get started.

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