One of the most interesting prospects in the 2024 NFL Draft is Washington QB Michael Penix Jr.. The lefty with the rifle arm captivated the eyes of college football after transferring to Seattle two years ago, and now is going to the NFL with hopes of being a part of a very small list of left-handed QBs who had success in the NFL.
Thanks to the good folks at Panini, I was able to catch up with Penix Jr. to talk about cards, passing progressions and QBs he enjoys watching. Panini America is hosting Michael Penix Jr. along with several other NFL players and draft prospects at the Panini Prizm VIP event in Las Vegas ahead of Super Bowl Weekend.
J.P. Acosta (JA): So what are you doing with Panini during the Super Bowl?
Michael Penix Jr (MPJ): Right now I’m at the Panini house, you know, just spending time with them. They got a lot of cool things going on in here, been doing autographs, I got trading cards and stuff like that coming out soon, you know. So I’m just enjoying my time here in Vegas, you know? I’ve been with them [Panini] since before the season. So it’s been a real good process. And I’ve been enjoying it so far.
JA: So when you were a kid, did you collect player cards like Panini has? And if you did, did you have a favorite player growing up that you tried to collect their card?
MPJ: I didn’t really collect player cards that much growing up, you know, but if it was somebody that I wanted a card from, I mean the greats like quarterback stuff, you know, for me, I watched Mike Vick, Tom Brady.
JA: During Washington’s run this past season, going undefeated, making it to the national championship, you received a lot of love and appreciation from Indiana fans. How did that make you feel, seeing that love and appreciation even after transferring?
MPJ: I didn’t really see it too much. You know, I don’t really be on social media a lot. But I did see some of it, you know, but it is good to know that somewhere where, you know, I spent a lot of my time at, putting a lot of hard work and dedication into a program still showing me support, you know, even though I had to move on. It’s great to have support like that.
JA: What was that process of learning quarterback mechanics left handed when everything in the world seems to be like, it’s taught towards right handed quarterbacks or right handed people?
MPJ: As far as the whole left hand, right hand thing, you know, I feel like that didn’t really happen. Like, it didn’t really affect me. If it feels hard on anybody, it’s probably harder on my coaches, like the trainers, that was training me. For me, I was always able to, you know, I’ll see him do a right handed and it was always easy for me to pick it up and flip it to the left hand side, so it wasn’t really that hard for me.
JA: One of the things I admire about your play is throwing off platform, so I was wondering kind of how you train yourself and being able to be able to throw outside the pocket so that you’re able to get the ball not only downfield, but accurately.
MPJ: I feel like a lot of that came naturally. Obviously, you know, just going through quarterback training and stuff like that, they put in drills that are similar and stuff like that, too, but when I first started playing quarterback I was throwing sidearm, you know. I played baseball, and I didn’t really have the mechanics, I didn’t really know how to throw it, so I really started off throwing sidearm just naturally, but, um, I feel like a lot of is natural.
JA: At Washington you had three great receivers in Rome Odunze, Jalen McMillian and Ja’Lynn Polk. How does your passing progression change when you have receivers like them on the outside?
MPJ: It wasn’t really a change at all, you know, it’s all built into the play. I feel like I do a good job of trying to make sure I get the ball to anybody who’s open. And if I feel like everyone is gloved (covered), and I trust any of them to just put the ball in the right spot, you know, and they’ll make the play for me. So, it just made it easier for me to be honest.
JA: Say you’re building out a playbook for yourself. What are two or three of your favorite passing concepts that you have to have? Like, if it gets called you’re like, ‘Oh, I’m cooking on this.’
MPJ: First one I’ll say is four verts. Four verts is good against anything, and obviously I like to show off my arm. So four verts is number one, then I like option concepts, you know. Option routes and stuff like that across the board. Just trying to find some ways to give the receiver multiple options or different ways to get open. I feel like with my quick release and my ability to make throws off platform, I’m able to adjust and react quickly to any route.
JA: So on those option routes, are you reading the leverage of the defender, or how do you read it out?
MPJ: I’m reading my receiver, like you could have option right and the defender has inside leverage and the receiver still breaks inside and get open. It’s just based on film or the way he [the defender] is playing it, the technique he’s playing at. So with option routes you gotta read your receiver.
JA: What would you tell 18-year-old you about the process of going through college the way you did, based on all that you’ve been through?
MPJ: Just keep fighting. Adversity is gonna show, so just be ready for it and be ready to attack it, you know, with a mindset that, you want to continue to get better and come out on the better side of it.
JA: When you look at guys who are either currently in the NFL or historically, who are some QBs that you try and emulate or model your playstyle after?
MPJ: I wouldn’t say I try to emulate anybody, I try to be the best version of me. Growing up, I used to watch Mike Vick. I watched Teddy Bridgewater, when he was at Louisville. You know, before he got the injuries and stuff like that, I feel like he was a great quarterback as well, but it was really those two guys.
JA: My last question for you Michael, when you get to the NFL, who is the NFL getting in Michael Penix Jr.?
MPJ: They’re gonna get a proven winner. I’ve been able to win everywhere I’ve been and, you know, circumstances weren’t always the best. I feel like, you know, to me collectively with my team just finding ways to win whenever I was on the field. I’m the best quarterback in this draft, for multiple reasons, but I just know I can make any throw at any time.
I also got to break down one of my favorite passes by Penix in his entire career, this 76-yard touchdown against Oregon in 2022. It absolutely ruled, and hearing Penix talk about it was even cooler.