Sports

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. pitches himself to NFL GMs in moving letter ahead of 2024 NFL Draft

Michael Penix Jr. will hear his name called this week to join an NFL team, one that could be looking to him to be their next franchise quarterback. 

This 2024 NFL Draft is stuffed with quarterback talent, with many expected to be taken in the first round. But with names like Caleb Williams, Jayden Daniel, Drake Maye and J.J. McCarthy getting all the hype and draft rumors, guys like Penix, who reached the national title game last season, have been sitting a bit in the background despite having first-round talent. 

Knowing that NFL general managers will be making some tough decisions this week, especially in the first round, Penix penned a letter to them via The Players’ Tribune to pitch himself more than what his game film already shows. 

Michael Penix Jr. looks on

Michael Penix Jr. of the Washington Huskies poses for portraits at the Indiana Convention Center on February 29, 2024 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Todd Rosenberg/Getty Images)

In fact, he addresses the biggest elephant in the room when it comes to how he’s been evaluated. 

“‘4 season-ending injuries in 4 years, Mike. How do I reconcile that?'” Penix’s letter begins, as if he’s the GM interviewing himself.

“Let’s get straight to it,” he continues. “Chances are this question has come up in your building. You may have even asked it yourself. Truth is, I don’t fault you for asking the question. Before I got into this pre-draft process, I always felt I’d let my tape speak for me. Anything anyone really needed to know about me is in the All-22. The tape shows it all, how our team responds to adversity, how we come together, how we execute. But as these four months have carried on I’ve realized there’s more to it than the All-22.

NFL DRAFT PROSPECTS JOE ALT, BO NIX ENJOY BLACK HAWK FLIGHT OVER DETROIT WITH NATIONAL GUARD THANKS TO USAA

This is a big decision. Selecting someone to lead your franchise, to wear the name on the front of the jersey with pride, and to make sure every teammate, coach, staff member, and fan can do the same. So, it’s about more than tape.”

Penix went on to explain his background, growing up in Dade City, Florida, where he learned that you either deal with adversity or get swallowed whole by it. 

“We swap out summer camps for tackle football on concrete in the 95-degree heat. You find out quick if you’re built for this game or not,” he wrote. “…I’m thankful that I grew up in that environment. The reason I’m on your draft board today is because of it.”

Penix’s college career began at Indiana University after previously being committed to play at Tennessee. He explains how his scholarship was pulled despite being committed to the university for two years prior. Penix credits Nick Sheridan, the Hoosiers’ quarterbacks coach, in helping realize his potential. 

Michael Penix Jr warms up

Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. watches during warm ups before national championship NCAA College Football Playoff game between Washington and Michigan Monday, Jan. 8, 2024, in Houston. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vasquez)

“IU had 10 straight losing seasons when I got to Bloomington, one winning season since 1994,” he explained. “I knew what I was walking into, but I felt I could help turn the program around. In 2020 we became the 7th-ranked team in the country, the highest ranking the program has had since 1967.”

But Penix continuously got hurt during this time at Indiana. He played just 21 games in four seasons, and he discussed the peaks and valleys of dealing with those injuries as well as adversity on the field. 

“From lighting up practice to watching practice on crutches. From getting a shout out from LeBron to being booed in my own stadium. From 4th quarter comebacks to entering the transfer portal waiting for somebody to call,” Penix recalled. “Indiana taught me to never take this game for granted. It also taught me that if I fall, I wouldn’t bet against me getting up.”

Penix’s popularity grew when he transferred to the University of Washington, where Kalen DeBoar, his former offensive coordinator at Indiana, took over as head coach. In 13 games, Penix became a star with 4,641 yards and 31 touchdowns passing. 

“I didn’t know anyone on the team, but I had to win the guys over,” Penix said about moving to Washington. “I had to convince them to stay and believe in me even though I wasn’t even named QB1. Washington was coming off a 4–8 season. 108th-ranked offense in the country. Morale was low, frustrations were high, but one thing I saw then, which everyone found out later, was the potential that building had. They needed someone to elevate the situation, help realize that potential. Within a season we became the 2nd ranked offense in college football. 11–2 record.”

Michael Penix Jr. walks on field

Michael Penix #QB08 of Washington looks on during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 02, 2024 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

This past season, Washington’s reign over the Pac-12 continued, as Penix threw for 4,903 yards with 36 touchdowns to 11 interceptions. His efforts with a high-octane offense led to a national championship appearance, though Michigan defeated Washington in the end. 

Since he declared for the NFL Draft, Penix had a solid NFL Combine and has passed the interview stages, according to draft evaluators. But was it enough to be a first-round pick? 

Penix’s injury history — which includes tearing his right ACL twice, once in 2018 and once in 2020 while with Indiana, as well as a clavicle fracture in 2019 and an A/C joint separation in 2021 — is a medical red flag.

But he’s viewed every injury differently than the rest. 

“Truth is, I’d be more worried if I had never been injured,” he said. “We don’t all come back the same. I can’t speak for those that have never gone through anything. But I can speak on me. I’ve seen how deep my foundation is. I know the storms I’m prepared to weather. For most people that’d be the end of their story. But there’s more to my story, and I own every page of it.

Michael Penix Jr. looks to throw

Michael Penix #QB08 of Washington participates in a drill during the NFL Combine at the Lucas Oil Stadium on March 2, 2024 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images)

Penix, then, gave examples of players in the NFL that had significant injuries, but always came back and succeeded. Players like Thomas Davis, who tore the same ACL three times, but still managed to play three straight Pro Bowl seasons, and future Hall of Famer Frank Gore, who tore his ACL twice in college before putting together the third-most rushing yards in NFL history over 16 seasons at running back. 

“I have no problem taking all the MRI’s and X-rays you ask of me,” Penix said. “Truth is, it’s an EKG that will tell you everything you need to know about me.”

Two teams where Penix has been mocked the most are the Minnesota Vikings and Las Vegas Raiders, both in the first round. 

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