A reader named Doug pointed out that Pennington is a smart guy. But my immediate reaction was that this is an honorary degree, and should not be misconstrued as him having "achieved" something...
Then, I went and looked up Pennington's college career and learned (thanks to Wikipedia):
In addition to his success on the football field, Pennington excelled academically, graduating with a degree in journalism, a 3.83 grade point average and becoming a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship. He wrote frequently for Marshall's newspaper The Parthenon and was a broadcaster for the school's radio station, although he used a pseudonym on air so as not to be distracting
So, in fact, he is a smart guy, and him not achieving the degree is really irrelevant.