Huard: Built for this – Penix could reach heights no UW QB has

Oct 18, 2023, 12:27 AM

UW Huskies Michael Penix Jr....

The UW Huskies' Michael Penix Jr. takes the field at Husky Stadium on Sept. 23, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Michael Penix Jr. is the best of so many of the great UW Huskies quarterbacks that preceded him.

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When I watch him play, I see Billy Joe Hobert’s self-confidence. When I watch him throw, I see Mark Brunell’s velocity and Warren Moon’s spiral. When I watch him lead, I see guys follow him like they followed Marques Tuiasosopo. When I see all that he’s overcome and persevered, I see a guy that Don James would have admired.

While it’s still a little difficult for me to embrace all sides of this NIL and transfer portal world we now live in, Penix has maximized this opportunity. I had a hard time with the “Loyal to the Soil” mantra of 2022 because of players like Penix who had no background nor understanding of the Pacific Northwest soil they practiced and played on. But after Saturday’s win over Oregon, as his tears flowed on the field while he tried his best to describe all that was pouring out of him, it became abundantly clear to me and many others he’s not just loyal – he’s built for this.

That is the UW Huskies’ mantra of 2023: “We are built for this.” Penix is the epitome of that moniker.

After multiple ACL and shoulder injuries, he’s built to endure.

After performing in the clutch when it mattered the most in two marquee matchups with Oregon, he’s built for primetime.

After freestyling on the bench in the final minutes about the comeback he was gonna produce, he’s built to lead.

Now, he’s got seven of the biggest weeks of his life to write a storybook ending that none of his predecessors could write. Sure, there were conference titles and Rose Bowls, and even a national title for Billy Joe. But all that, and a Heisman? It’s there. It’s possible. And with enormous ranked matchups on the schedule and a head-to-head battle with incumbent Heisman winner Caleb Williams of USC in the next month, the story is ready to be written.

Speaking of a story, I remember the first conversation with my nephew Sam about this southpaw transfer from Indiana. I had covered a few of Penix’s games at Indiana, and while the arm strength was elite, the accuracy and poise were a work in progress. But Sam reminded me the arm strength wasn’t just elite.

“Uncle Brock, he could effortlessly throw the ball 75 yards, if not more.”

That’s more than elite. That’s something Pelluer, Cowan, Millen, Chandler, Conklin, Brunell, Hobert, Huard, Huard, Tui, Pickett, Locker, Browning and others could only dream of doing. Maybe – maybe – even Moon.

To the moon and stars, that’s where 2023 still has a shot of going for Penix and these Huskies. And with 17 wins in his first 19 starts, it doesn’t feel like those heights are unreachable for him. Good health, good run defense and good weather in Corvallis will go a long way to helping this Husky pay off all he is indeed built for.

Brock Huard played quarterback for the UW Huskies from 1995 to 1998 and in the NFL from 1999-2004. He is now a college football broadcaster for FOX and has co-hosted Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk for 15 years.

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