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Michael Penix Jr. 'blessed' to be in Falcons quarterback room with Kirk Cousins

The Falcons used their No. 8 overall draft pick Thursday to select quarterback Michael Penix Jr., planning to let him learn and grow under starter Kirk Cousins. 

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Michael Penix Jr. didn't come to Atlanta wearing rose-colored glasses.

The reality of the Falcons' quarterback situation was made clear before the first-round draft pick's arrival to the team facility Friday afternoon. Kirk Cousins is their present. Penix is their future.

The rookie has already accepted – perhaps even embraced – that plan.

"I love winning, and I'm a team guy," Penix said during his introductory press conference. "That's what I'm going to be in the locker room.

"Kirk is an amazing guy. I actually watched the 'Quarterback' series with him. Seeing that he's a man of faith, just like me, and he's all about family – I really enjoyed that, to get a feel of what kind of guy he is. I'm super blessed to be in the room with him and to be able to work with him and learn from him and support him as he continues on his career."

Penix and Cousins spoke Thursday, too, after the chaos of the first round calmed. Details will remain private, but Penix at least called it "a very good conversation."

As a quick refresher: The Falcons signed Cousins to a four-year $180 million deal back in March. Neither general manager Terry Fontenot nor head coach Raheem Morris have hesitated in calling Cousins their starter in 2024.

The Falcons then restructured backup Taylor Heinicke's contract to keep him rostered for another year without major financial repercussions. That was reported at the beginning of April.

Well, on Thursday, the Falcons used their No. 8 overall selection to bring Penix into the mix.

The outside world was shocked, to say the least.

"This wasn't us forcing something," Fontenot said. "This was just we have a lot of belief in the player. We know he can be a future franchise player. That's why we made the decision to do that right now."

Penix is 23 years old and joins the NFL with six seasons of NCAA work under his belt. He spent the first four years of his career at Indiana before transferring to Washington, where he ultimately thrived. He posted back-to-back seasons of 4,500-plus passing yards, combining for 67 touchdowns with just 19 interceptions. In his final year, he led the Huskies to their first national championship appearance in the BCS era.

The latter campus is where the Falcons visited and maybe decided on Penix. Morris noted Penix's willingness to learn, whether in a workout or conversation. That painted the current picture.

"He's got a great guy he can model his game after," Morris said. "He's got a great guy he can model his process after. He's got a great guy that he can model everything (after). Kirk Cousins is absolutely phenomenal, from when he came into this league to now. (Penix) is in a position that he can just go follow and do the right things within our building, do the right things within the structure of learning the offense, and put himself in position to go out there and try to be the best version of himself. That's all he needs to do: just be the best version of himself."

Doesn't seem like that will be difficult. Penix literally echoed that sentiment himself.

"The biggest thing is just being myself," he said. "I don't feel like I need to change for anybody in anyway."

That includes his mindset.

"I'm still going to prepare like I'm going to be on that field because you never know when your number is called, but you got to be ready," Penix said. "So, for me, I'm going to do whatever I can to be ready at Day 1. I'm still going to put in the same work. I'm going to prepare and I'm going to work as if I'm the starter – no matter what my role is – because I want to do anything I can to help this team win a football game. And for me to do that, I got to be at my best."

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