Joel Penner

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Head Coach/Quarterbacks Coach

(712) 722-6311

Recruiting territories

Joel Penner smiling faceCoaching Background

Penner was named the head coach of the Defender football program for the 2016 season and guided the Defenders to a pair of five win seasons in 2016 and 2017 before a program best 7-3 record in 2018. The Defenders ended the 2018 season ranked #23 in the NAIA Coaches' Poll. Dordt followed the record-setting 2018 season with a 7-4 mark in 2019 and was ranked #24 in two of the weekly polls.  

The 2020 season proved to be Dordt's most succesful under Penner with a 7-2 GPAC mark and an 8-3 overall mark with the Defenders qualifying for the NAIA postseason for the first time in program history.

During his first season at Dordt, The Defender offense finished #1 in the GPAC and #5 in NAIA in total rushing yards per game (275.4). They also finished #3 in the GPAC in total offense per game (445.5), and #4 in scoring offense per game (32.4), both of which are school records. In 2016, Coach Penner produced a first-team All-American in Bryce Lidtka, who rushed for a school record, 1,714 yards, ranking #1 in the NAIA in total rushing yards and rushing touchdowns (24). Penner also coached wide receiver Jason Miller, who finished second in the NAIA in total receiving yards (1311), breaking yet another Dordt record. Jacob Cook, an offensive lineman, was named first-team All-American in 2017 and Bill Vander Woude was a second-team All-American selection in 2019. 

The 2018 team was #7 in the NAIA in yards rushed per game (252.6) and was #12 in scoring offense per game (38.6). The 2018 team also achieved NAIA Scholar-Team status with a 3.23 team grade point average for the 2018-19 school year.

The 2019 team was #2 in the NAIA in yards rushed per game (326.5) and was #7 in passing defense per game (158.1). The Defenders were #11 in scoring offense per game (36.9). 

The 2020 team was #2 in the NAIA in yards rushed per game (320) and #1 in total quarterback sacks on defense. The Defenders were #6 in the country in points scored per game (43.7) and #14 in points allowed (17.4). 

In Penner's five years at Dordt, the Defenders have had 13 first-team all-GPAC players and 27 players have been named NAIA Daktronics Scholar-Athletes. He's coached nine players who have been named CoSIDA Academic All-District First-Team honors and five times a player was named a CoSIDA Academic All-American.

Coach Penner has 20 years of college football coaching experience with stops at Malone (Ohio), Northwestern College (Iowa), Trinity International (Illinois), Greenville (Illinois), and Pacific Lutheran (Washington).

Under Penner’s guidance, the Malone offense doubled in production over Penner’s first two years on the staff in 2012 and 2013. In 2013, the Pioneers averaged nearly 30 points and 400 yards of offense per game while also leading the GLIAC in red zone touchdown percentage. Penner was a part of a coaching staff that transitioned Malone from NAIA membership to NCAA Division II status.

While at Northwestern from 2009 to 2011, Penner coached an offense that averaged over 36 points and 420 yards per game during the 2011 season. In addition to crafting a strong Red Raider passing attack, he also developed a spread option ground game that was ranked third in the nation in 2010 with an average of 283 yards per contest. During Penner’s three years at Northwestern, 21 offensive players earned all-conference honors and four players were named NAIA All-Americans.

Coaching Philosophy

I love being involved in this game and the opportunity to share my passions with our players is a gift. My mission is to honor God in the way I steward the program, to build men, and to lead our players in a fight to compete fiercely out of a secure identity in Christ. 

Athletic Background

Competed in football and basketball at Centennial High School (Arizona) and Abbotsford Senior Secondary (British Columbia). Played tight end at Trinity International University.

Academic Background

B.A. in sports and wellness management – Trinity International in 2001

M.A. in Christian studies – Trinity International in 2004


Wife: Emily

Daughter: Ella

Sons: Jacob and Caleb