Listen to Seattle Sports: Alex Rodriguez live on Brock & Salk


Kirk Cousins called UW Huskies QB Michael Penix Jr. after surprise pick

Apr 26, 2024, 5:45 PM

UW Huskies Michael Penix Jr....

Michael Penix Jr. of the Washington Huskies during the 2024 national championship game. (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

(Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — UW Huskies standout Michael Penix Jr., the biggest surprise of the NFL draft’s first round, received a congratulatory call from Kirk Cousins on Thursday night even as Cousins’ agent was second-guessing the Atlanta Falcons adding depth to their quarterback spot.

Why did Falcons take UW Huskies’ Penix when they have Cousins?

Penix described the chat with Cousins as “a very good conversation,” but would not say what was discussed.

Penix may have been more excited by Friday’s text message from another left-handed Falcons quarterback named Michael. In his first news conference in Atlanta after he was the No. 8 overall draft pick by the Falcons, Penix beamed when talking about his text from Michael Vick.

“I definitely watched him,” said Penix of Vick, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 draft who played with the Falcons through 2006 before his career was interrupted by dog-fighting charges and a prison term.

“He was my favorite quarterback,” Penix said. “I had the Vick cleats and all as a kid. … I’m glad I’m old enough to have been able to see that era.”

Penix watched the draft at his Florida home. A large group of family members, including his parents, accompanied Penix on Friday’s flight to the Falcons’ practice facility.

Penix cautioned Falcons fans to not expect him to share the dynamic Vick’s speed as a runner.

“I’m not going to say me and his games are the same,” Penix said. “He did a lot of creating. I feel like we both throw the ball very well. … I think people see him create plays and forget he had a cannon. He flicked the ball like it was effortless.”

Clearly, Penix’s powerful left arm was the primary reason the Falcons, who had been expected to target an edge rusher in the first round, chose the Washington quarterback one month after signing Cousins to a four-year, $180 million contract with $100 million guaranteed.

Penix, who will be 24 as a rookie, led FBS schools with 4,903 passing yards and was third with 36 touchdown passes in 2023. He won the Maxwell Award as the nation’s top player as No. 2 Washington fell to top-ranked Michigan 34-13 in the College Football Playoff championship game.

Penix began his college career at Indiana, where he tore his right ACL in 2018 and 2020 and had shoulder injuries in both 2019 and 2021.

Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot stressed Cousins, entering his age-36 season, is the starter while Penix is the future.

More: Stunner! UW Huskies’ Michael Penix Jr. drafted No. 8 by Atlanta

The strategy was a surprise to many, including Cousins’ agent, Mike McCartney, who said Cousins was blindsided by the draft pick. McCartney did not return messages from The Associated Press on Friday.

Fontenot said the team “did everything we could do to get Kirk Cousins” and felt it was also important to add Penix as the long-term answer at quarterback.

“We’re going to build a sustained winner, and we’re going to win for a long time,” Fontenot said Thursday night. “That’s the most important position in football. That’s who we’re thinking about.”

Coach Raheem Morris said the decision to draft Penix was not influenced by Cousins’ season-ending Achilles tendon injury with Minnesota last season. Cousins worked on the field on Tuesday in the Falcons’ offseason program and is expected to be ready for the season.

“At some point, you’ve got to find a way to have that succession plan in place,” Morris said following the first round. “It just so happened it posed itself tonight.”

Added Morris of having the No. 8 pick: “We don’t want to be in this position again.”

Penix said he’s comfortable working behind Cousins, but will be prepared when asked to play.

“I know I’m going to put in a ton of work to make sure whenever I do step on that field it’s not going to be a beat missed,” he said.

More on UW Huskies and the NFL Draft

• Rome Odunze drafted No. 9 as UW Huskies go back-to-back
• Troy Fautanu to Steelers, giving UW Huskies 3 1st-rounders in draft
• Ranked: Brock’s top 5 UW Huskies in 2024 NFL Draft
Seattle Seahawks draft Texas DL Byron Murphy II in first round
• Details: Live Seahawks NFL Draft coverage from Seattle Sports
• Seattle Seahawks NFL Draft Tracker: Keep up on every pick and trade

UW Huskies

UW Huskies football Maurice Heims National Championship 2024 Getty 900...

Christian Caple

Caple: 8 players who could raise UW Huskies’ ceiling

With preseason practices quickly approaching, here are eight players who could improve the UW Huskies football fortunes by producing in 2024.

4 days ago

UW Huskies...

Christian Caple

UW Huskies: 5 recruits to watch who could still join program

With no more limits on the number of prospects who can sign in a single class — and several sought-after recruits still considering the UW Huskies — Jedd Fisch’s 2025 recruiting class isn’t yet complete.

5 days ago

UW Huskies Jedd Fisch spring press conference 2024...

Cameron Van Til

Is Fisch delivering on goal of UW Huskies’ best recruiting class ever?

New UW Huskies head coach Jedd Fisch is off to a strong start in making his 2025 recruiting class the best in program history.

7 days ago

UW Huskies baseball general...

Brent Stecker

UW Huskies hire Olympia native as new baseball head coach

Olympia native Eddie Smith has joined the UW Huskies as head baseball coach after a three-year tenure at Utah Valley.

7 days ago

UW Huskies Husky Stadium Oregon general...

Christian Caple

Five things to know about the UW Huskies’ 2025 recruiting class

On Montlake's Christian Caple breaks down how the UW Huskies' 2025 recruiting class is shaping up thus far.

11 days ago

UW Huskies Kamren Fabiculanan...

Christian Caple

Caple on UW Huskies football: A closer look at the 2024 roster

UW Huskies insider Christian Caple of On Montlake breaks down facts and figures behind a football roster unlike any Washington has ever assembled.

12 days ago

Kirk Cousins called UW Huskies QB Michael Penix Jr. after surprise pick