Michael Penix Jr. ready to take the field for Falcons at rookie minicamp

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Penix Jr. signs autographs for fans during Washington's spring football game Friday, May 3, 2024, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Penix Jr. signs autographs for fans during Washington's spring football game Friday, May 3, 2024, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

Michael Penix Jr. is about to make his first impression on the Flowery Branch practice field.

The Falcons begin three-day rookie minicamp Friday, where they’ll evaluate around 18 first-year players, including eight draftees. But all eyes will center on Penix, who the team surprisingly selected No. 8 overall to be (eventually) its franchise quarterback.

Yes, the Falcons acquired Kirk Cousins’ successor before he’s even played a down for them. The situation has been discussed, debated and analyzed ad nauseam; all that matters now is how Penix performs. Given that he isn’t expected to play much in the regular season, his offseason opportunities – from now through training camp through the preseason – will be invaluable.

“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,” Penix said during his introductory press conference.

Penix, who was oft-injured in college before his time at Washington, where he became a Heisman Trophy candidate, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that those years prepared him for the patience he’ll require in Atlanta. Neither Penix nor his team knows when he’ll start his first game.

“I’ve been through adversity where the game was taken away from me,” Penix told the AJC. “This is different. I’m healthy. It’s a different wait. But those times taught me different things. It taught me how to prepare at another level. It taught me how to use every bit of knowledge that I can to continue to get better, even though I was off the field. So as far as taking mental reps, the preparation day in and day out, the preparation I put into going about my business – knowing I couldn’t be on the field – it’s just going to enhance now that I’m at another level.”

There won’t be much taken from rookie minicamp, but it’s an opportunity for Penix to be around new teammates, work with coaches and get acclimated to the facility. He can show that explosive left arm that made him so effective in the Pac-12. He also can demonstrate the leadership qualities everyone around him gushes about.

“When you can add a high-caliber player like that, with his intangibles, those tools, he’s a winner, very, very excited,” Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot said. “You don’t pass up that opportunity.”

Penix, who turned 24 on Wednesday, led the country with 4,903 passing yards last season. His 36 passing touchdowns ranked third. He led the Huskies to a conference title and a national-championship game appearance. There was some thought he might not be a first-round pick, but the run on quarterbacks – six were selected in the first 12 picks – made it clear that if the Falcons passed, another team probably would take him soon. Penix was the fourth quarterback off the board after USC’s Caleb Williams (No. 1), LSU’s Jayden Daniels (No. 2) and North Carolina’s Drake Maye (No. 3). He went ahead of Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy (No. 10) and Oregon’s Bo Nix (No. 12).

The Falcons hadn’t drafted a quarterback in the top two rounds since Matt Ryan (No. 3 overall, 2008) before selecting Penix. Their history of first-round quarterbacks beyond those two includes Michael Vick (2001), Chris Miller (1987), Steve Bartkowski (1975) and Randy Johnson (1966).