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Tampa’s Michael Penix Jr. named Heisman Trophy finalist

The Washington star is the first player from the Tampa Bay area to earn this honor.
 
Michael Penix Jr. is the Tampa Bay area's first Heisman Trophy finalist. The Washington star played at Tampa Bay Tech and Pasco High.
Michael Penix Jr. is the Tampa Bay area's first Heisman Trophy finalist. The Washington star played at Tampa Bay Tech and Pasco High. [ DAVID BECKER | AP ]
Published Dec. 4, 2023|Updated Dec. 5, 2023

Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has become the first player from the Tampa Bay area to become a Heisman Trophy finalist.

The other three finalists were LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels, Ohio State receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. and Oregon quarterback Bo Nix.

Penix earned that honor Monday evening, a day after his No. 2 Huskies earned a spot in the College Football Playoff. The Tampa Bay Tech/Pasco High product was a major reason why.

The left-hander and team captain leads the nation with 4,218 passing yards (324.5 per game). His 33 touchdown passes are third in the country, and he’s 15th with a 161.43 passing efficiency.

Penix performed well in some of his team’s biggest games.

One of Washington’s rivals, No. 8 Oregon, allowed more than 300 passing yards only three times this season; two came against Penix, who led the Huskies to a 36-33 win in October and a 34-31 triumph in Friday’s Pac-12 championship. That final victory cemented Washington’s 13-0 season and sent the Huskies to the playoff for the first time since 2016. He was named the game’s most valuable player.

Penix’s 363 yards at No. 14 Arizona was also a season-high for the Wildcats’ defense, and he threw two touchdowns with no interceptions at No. 21 Oregon State (in driving rain, no less).

Michael Penix Jr. was the MVP of the Pac-12 title game.
Michael Penix Jr. was the MVP of the Pac-12 title game. [ DAVID BECKER | AP ]

Penix finished eighth in last year’s voting for the most prestigious individual award in college sports. Only four other local players have previously finished in the top 10 in balloting: USC receiver Mike Williams of Plant High (eighth, 2003); Tulane quarterback Shaun King of Gibbs (10th, 1998); Florida State quarterback Gary Huff of Leto (10th, 1972); and Tennessee linebacker Steve Kiner of Hillsborough (ninth, 1969).

Penix is also a finalist for the Maxwell Award (another honor for the nation’s top player) and the Davey O’Brien Award (top quarterback). Betting odds have him as a distant second to win the award; Daniels is the heavy favorite.

Daniels rushed for 1,134 yards and leads the nation with a 208.01 passing efficiency. Nix’s completion percentage (77.2) is first in the country. Both have thrown 40 touchdown passes. Harrison caught 67 passes for 1,211 yards and 14 touchdowns and is regarded as one of the best wide receiver prospects in years.