MOBILE, Ala. — Former Washington star quarterback Michael Penix Jr.‘s career arc has been defined by overcoming adversity, as he endured four season-ending injuries during his first four seasons of college football while playing at Indiana.
Penix stayed healthy the past two years at Washington, leading the nation in passing yards per game in both 2022 and 2023 and going 25-3 as a starter.
Penix came to the Senior Bowl this week to compete for a spot in the NFL draft’s first round, as his injury history is part of the reason that his prolific production the past two years doesn’t match his draft projections.
Penix knows there will be questions about his health history. And Penix told ESPN that he went to see Dr. Neal S. ElAttrache, the noted surgeon from the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic in Los Angeles. ElAttrache took scans of the Penix’s right knee, which has endured two ACL tears that ended his 2018 and 2020 seasons.
Penix told ESPN that ElAttrache will be available to talk to any teams that have questions, but said that he got a “thumbs up” from ElAttrache and “there’s nothing to hold me back.” That aligns with how Penix’s knee felt in the three seasons since the second ACL tear, as that specific injury hasn’t caused him to miss a practice, workout or game in those seasons.
He added: “Some of that stuff I can’t control. I can tell them how I feel, I can show them how I feel, that’s all I can do at that point. I’ve got plenty of scans to show them, the doctor says I’m clear, nothing’s wrong, I don’t see why they would think I’m hurt, really. I can just show them what I can do.”
Penix did that plenty on the field the past two seasons at Washington. He led the Huskies to the College Football Playoff in 2023, as they started 14-0 before losing to Michigan in the College Football Playoff championship.
This season, Penix threw for 4,903 yards, 36 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He completed 65.4% of his passes in an offense that put a premium on pushing the ball down the field. He also took just 16 sacks on more than 1,100 passing attempts the past two years thanks to a strong offensive line and the deft ability to feel pressure.
Asked whether he’s frustrated that he still needs to prove himself to evaluators, Penix quickly dismissed the notion. “I can’t control other people’s perspectives or how they view me as a quarterback,” he said. “For me, I just got to continue to be myself and continue to work hard each and every day to show them that I’m willing to do whatever it takes to be great, and I belong anywhere that I end up.”
Penix has spent the weeks since the national title game training with noted quarterback tutor John Beck of 3DQB in Southern California.
He said that the 34-13 loss in the national title game to Michigan was “tough for me to get over at first,” but he has been excited to get back on the field.
During Senior Bowl practices this week in Mobile, Penix and the other quarterbacks have met with groups of five NFL teams at once. He said the questions have mostly involved his background and journey through football.
Penix played the first four years of his career at Indiana. Along with the ACL injuries, two other seasons (2019 and 2021) ended with shoulder injuries, one to each shoulder. Neither of those injuries is expected to impact him in the NFL.
Penix is appreciative of the moments at the Senior Bowl after those years where injuries intersected his seasons.
“It was hard for me to just go out there and have fun at that time,” he said. “I was just trying to get to that point where you can go back out there and find fun in the game again. I was blessed — I am blessed — to be in this position where I have found I can go out there and have fun.”
Penix sprayed passes around the field Tuesday, the familiar sight of the ball exploding out of his left hand. The setting showcased his arm talent, with hundreds of NFL evaluators scattered around Hancock Whitney Stadium on the campus of South Alabama. And he’s eager to keep putting on a show.
“Just building relationships here, building relationships with people, elevating myself as a person and player here,” Penix said. “Just trying to get to know as many people as I can, being out here in front of these coaches, to show my skills in front of them. I’m soaking in the moment. As long as I soak in all of the moments and get everything out of it I can, I feel like it will a great week for me.”