Haynesworth, who received the transplant on April 15, was an All-Pro defensive tackle who played 10 seasons in the league after starring for three years with the Tennessee Volunteers.
A few weeks after the surgery, Haynesworth shared a picture of himself with Penny on his Instagram page.
“So I would like the world to meet what a real living Angel looks like,” Haynesworth wrote. “Everyone please say hello to my donor @packzenny. This kind hearted selfless human being drove seven hours from Arkansas to give me one of his kidneys! This is one of the happiest days of my life next to the birth of my kids. We need more people in this world like Zach. I’m striving to be like him.”
Penny, a 29-year-old physical therapist assistant from Arkansas, said he wanted to donate a kidney a few years ago. He told the Tennessean in a recent interview that he was happy to be able to help someone.
“I guess there was a pressure build-up of, ‘OK, hopefully this works. Hopefully, this checks out. Hopefully, he can be healthy,’ ” Penny told the newspaper. “Of course, I knew he was going to be thankful because it’s such a big deal. But I felt relieved that it was good; that it was a successful surgery. His body was able to accept the kidney. And it makes it even better now to see … him up and moving and talking with much joy.
“There was a peace, a lift that was good,” Penny added.