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Michael Penix Jr. had 'a very good conversation' with Falcons QB Kirk Cousins on draft night

The first round of the 2024 NFL Draft took a turn once Michael Penix Jr.'s name was called by the Falcons on Thursday night.

Despite just signing Kirk Cousins to a four-year, $180 million contract, Atlanta decided to invest in its future by selecting the highly-touted quarterback prospect out of Washington with the eighth overall pick. The move not only shocked the NFL world, but came as a "big surprise" to Cousins' camp on draft night, per NFL Network Insider Mike Garafolo.

Upon his introduction in Atlanta on Friday, Penix told reporters that he and Cousins already "had a very good conversation" on draft night, but declined to go into any specifics.

"I'm going to keep it just between me and him right now. It was definitely a good conversation," Penix said. "I'm super excited to work with him and he said he's the same with me."

Penix burst onto the scene last year while leading the Washington Huskies to a 14-1 record and an appearance in the 2024 CFP National Championship Game. The left-handed quarterback conducted a high-powered offense that featured wideout Rome Odunze, who was taken by the Chicago Bears with the very next pick at No. 9, and he set the school's single-season record for passing yards (4,641) while throwing 36 touchdowns as a senior. He collected the Maxwell Award as the nation's top player in the process while also being a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.

Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot reiterated on Friday that selecting Penix was indeed a forward-thinking decision for the franchise.

"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."

Raheem Morris added that having Penix learn under Cousins will only benefit the rookie.

"He's got a great guy he can model his game after," the Falcons head coach said Friday. "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."

Cousins, 35, is coming off a torn Achilles that cut short another productive season in Minnesota. The Falcons were comfortable enough to sign the veteran to a hefty deal that included $100 million guaranteed, but the selection of Penix might provide unforeseen controversy in the QB room, whether Atlanta likes it or not.

Penix, who turns 24 in early May, won't be entering his NFL career looking to create any fuss, however; rather, he's embracing his role as an understudy to Cousins.

"I'm here to do whatever I can to help this team win football games," Penix said. "That's the biggest thing for me. I love winning, and you know, I'm a team guy. That's what I'm going to be in the locker room. Kirk (Cousins), he's an amazing guy. I actually watched the 'Quarterback' series with him and seeing that he's a man of faith, just like me. He's all about his family, so I really enjoyed that, to kind of get a feel of what kind of guy he is.

"I'm super blessed to be able to be in a room with him and to be able to work with him and learn from him and support him as he continues in his career."

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