‘He’s going to do great things’: Why the new UW QB Michael Penix Jr. is more than his injury history

Michael Penix Jr. is still in the race.

From Florida to Indiana to Washington, he has been hardened by the obstacles.

Each of the 6-foot-3, 214-pound quarterbacks’ four collegiate seasons has ended in injuries – torn ACLs in 2018 and 2020, a sternoclavicular joint (connecting the collarbone to the sternum) in 2019 and an AC joint shoulder problem in 2021. In all, the two-time captain and 2020 All-Big Ten second-team pick completed 59.4% of his passes in 4,197 yards, 35 total touchdowns and 15 interceptions in 20 career games in Indiana.

But he has never played more than six games in a season.

Therefore, Penix Jr. has plenty to prove in Washington.

For coaches. To teammates. For fans.

But not to himself.

“He knows who he is,” Penix Jr.’s father, Michael Penix Sr., told The Times Friday. “I’ve always told him that once he finds out who he really is and he puts everything into it, he can accomplish anything.

“He is not afraid of any task. I think he lives a life without worries and no fear. He has endurance. He understands that the race is a long race and everything that has happened in the past is it “that makes him who he is now. The person he is now is a stronger person than he was two or three years ago.”

If anyone can see the difference, then it’s Kalen DeBoer. UW’s freshman head coach spent a single season as Indiana’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2019, helping the left complete 68.8% of his passes – a program record – with 1,394 passing yards, 10 touchdowns and just four interceptions.

Now, Penix Jr. hopes the partnership continues to be successful, now in the Pac-12 game.

“With the scattered offense and getting the ball out of my hand, I felt comfortable,” Penix Jr. said. about his previous success in DeBoer’s system. “Every throw I made, I felt 100% comfortable with. I always knew they would try to put us in the best situation. I’m not saying anyone else did, but I felt this was the one. best option.

“To come up here to visit and meet some of the guys, they are amazing guys. We also have a lot of good athletes here. I’m surrounded by a lot of positivity. I feel like it’s definitely going to pay off in the end.”

Therefore, Penix Jr. ended up. – a Tampa product that had never been to Seattle – to Washington, more than 3,000 miles from home.

“When he said he wanted to go down there, we said, ‘Fantastic.’ Because we like DeBoer, too,” Penix Sr. said. We are so used to him not being around anyway, and he always makes good decisions about where he is going and when he is going. I know he asked for it. If he believes in that, that’s where he’s going. “

Plus, the Huskies could certainly use the help. After a 4-8 season and a change of coach, sophomore Dylan Morris and freshman Sam Huard will compete with Penix Jr. about the starting spot as a quarterback. The trio will receive identical reps with the first-team attack in UW’s first four training sessions, offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb said this week.

But Penix Jr.’s past experience with the attack cannot be ignored.

“It continues to focus on other things now,” Penix Jr. said. about its priorities in the spring. “I already have the offense in my head, so let me focus on certain protections I need to get it right, and the flash and various things they do here in Pac-12.”

Of course, Penix Jr.’s focus is also on his health – on overcoming the upcoming obstacles.

“I think we’ve done a good job, between (strength) coach (Ron) McKeefery and Daren (Nystrom, coach), really trying to assess (his injury history) and go all in on what we know,” said Grubb Monday. “We treat it like a factual situation where we have (current UW tight-ends coach and former IU offensive coordinator Nick) Sheridan and coach DeBoer, who were around Michael at certain times, trying to think, ‘Okay, what led to this? ‘

“There was definitely an element of mishap. Injuries are happening, and for Mike it has definitely been a piece. But now we can only focus on understanding the past and what has happened and working forward to find out, ‘OK, what is that what gives us our best chance to keep him healthy? ‘ I know Mike and our training staff are working hard on that. “

Friday, when asked if he is completely healthy, Penix Jr. said, “I’m fine,” with a wider grin.

It appears that the injuries did not puncture Penix Jr.’s confidence or personal beliefs.

Nor have they influenced the way he plays.

“He’s been playing quarterback since he was 6 or 7 years old. He was the only quarterback I knew at that age who would stay in his pocket,” Penix Sr. said with a rumbling laugh. “Because most quarterbacks would start to run at that age. It was crazy, people used to tell him to run because he was the fastest person on the track. But he just wanted to stand back and wait for his husband to open. He just had no worries and no fears in his pocket. “

Fast forward 15 years, and Penix Jr. – once a track star at Tampa Bay Tech – has rushed in just 165 yards in four collegiate seasons. Penix Sr. added that “if you are his receiver, you will love him because you know you will get it. As he operates on the court, you see some quarterbacks target one receiver all the time. He will throw the ball to the open man in any situation in the fight. “

In some ways, Penix Jr. is. still the same patient passerby he was as a 7-year-old.

But the damage has, if nothing else, given perspective.

“He’s not a child anymore. He’s passed on to who he should be. He’s become a man now,” said Penix Sr. “With all these injuries and all the things that happened to him, it made him a stronger player, a wiser player. His thinking is on a different level right now. “

In a familiar system – and an unknown place – it’s time for Michael Penix Jr. to end the race.

“I expect great things from him because I know he has great things in him,” said Penix Sr. about his son. “I think he is a special talent and he is a talent from God. I know he wants to do great things in Washington. “

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