Summer 2024

Heisman hopeful Michael Penix Jr. leading No. 5 Washington, thanking God 'for everything'

As he started his on-field interview with ESPN’s Holly Rowe after Washington’s thrilling 36-33 win over Oregon on Saturday, quarterback Michael Penix Jr. seemed to be processing a multitude of emotions all at once. His answer to Rowe’s first question combined them into one: gratitude.

Gratitude for special moments like the game he’d just played in, gratitude for the trials he’s overcome in his college career, and gratitude for the journey God has led him on.

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“I’ve just got to give credit to the man upstairs and thank God for everything He put me through and allowing me to get to the spot I am today,” Penix told Rowe. “It was a tough game, but I knew we’d be able to pull it off. … I’m just so proud of this team and I just thank God for everything that He allowed me to have.”

Penix first garnered national attention in 2019 while helping lead Indiana University to its first eight-win season since 1993, and in the shortened 2020 season when he led the Hoosiers to a 6-2 record. In 2019, IU went 5-1 in the six games Penix started before a shoulder injury sidelined him for the rest of the season. That was one of four season-ending injuries Penix suffered in his four years at Indiana.

The injuries took a significant mental toll on him.

“There were times when I’d wake up the day of the game, and I’d wait until my roommate leaves, and I’d just lie on the floor and I’d just cry to God, just praying that He’d protect me that day,” he told Pac-12 Network before the season. “I knew where my head was at that time.”

Penix transferred to Washington in 2022 and got the fresh start he was looking for. He played in all 13 games as the Huskies went 11-2, finishing second in the nation in passing yards (4,641) and fourth in completions (362).

His decision to return for another season cemented Washington as a preseason top-10 team and potential national title contender. Penix started his Instagram post announcing that he was coming back by giving glory to God and acknowledging the important role faith has played in his football career.

“First of all, I would like to thank God for blessing me with the opportunity to play this sport that I have been in love with all my life,” he said. “I would like to thank all of Husky Nation and the University of Washington for believing in me and supporting me and my teammates in this wonderful journey.”

 

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So far, the Huskies have justified the hype. Penix’s 2,301 passing yards are the second-most in the country, and he ranks in the top 15 in a variety of statistical categories, including touchdown passes (20), completion percentage (72.1%) and passer rating (189.9). Washington is the lone undefeated team remaining in the Pac-12 and No. 5 in the most recent Associated Press poll.

Penix threw for 302 yards and four touchdowns in the top-10 showdown with Oregon and was named the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback of the Week for his performance. He is also one of the Heisman Trophy favorites with the season approaching the halfway point.

Reflecting on his journey during a feature for the Pac-12 Network in September, Penix said the challenges he’s faced have allowed him to demonstrate the resilience he believes is just part of his personality.

“It wasn’t easy to get here,” he said. “Everything that I’ve accomplished to this day, it came with a lot of heartbreak, a lot of tears. Nothing was going to be easy to be great. I’m more than just a football player, and deep down inside as a person, I’m a guy that’s never going to quit.”

Up next for Penix and the Huskies is a home game against Arizona State. Kickoff is at 10:30 p.m. ET on Saturday.

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