Jake Browning wants to make it clear that he’s not a mechanical, dispassionate QB — that he has been enjoying the Huskies’ ride back to national relevance this season, even if his stoic shell sometimes suggests otherwise.
The meticulous manner in which Jake Browning prepares to play each week has taken on legendary status around the University of Washington football offices.
Teammates are often in awe of how much their quarterback dedicates himself to his craft. Coaches talk about how in sync Browning is with their vision for the offense.
Browning estimates he watches a couple hours of film each day, every day. He’s been that way since his days at Folsom (Calif.) High School, when he would spend lunch periods watching film and talking ball with coaches.
Who has the edge?
• Second in the nation with 37 passing touchdowns
• Has rushed for four touchdowns
• Threw school-record six TD passes against Oregon and California
• Semifinalist for the Maxwell Trophy and the O’Brien Award
• No. 3 in the nation in passing yards with 3,935
• Third in the nation with 36 passing touchdowns
• Led the nation last season in passing average at 380.5 yards per game
• Semifinalist for the Maxwell Trophy and the O’Brien Award
He is a football junkie, yes. But Browning wants to make clear, too, that he’s not a mechanical, dispassionate QB — he has been enjoying the Huskies’ ride back to national relevance this season, even if his stoic shell sometimes suggests otherwise.
Photos | Box | Highlights
“I’m not a robot,” Browning said. “Yeah, after a game I’ll go hang out with friends and stuff like that. But we’re playing for some pretty cool things right now and it’s pretty easy to be motivated when — I think we’re 10-1 now and you’re going to play for the Pac-12 championship. That’s something no one on this team has ever done.”
The label of Reluctant Star has stuck, and Browning doesn’t much mind. It fits. He certainly hasn’t embraced the spotlight or the idea of being a Heisman Trophy candidate.
As his profile rose with his record-setting passing numbers, as national media outlets arrived in Seattle to try to tell his story, Browning typically offered little in the way of personality. During interviews, he’s not necessarily difficult … but he’s not easy, either. He answers the questions asked and seems eager to move on. There are always throws to critique, opponents to break down, right?
“After a big win, I’m still thinking about some things I did wrong,” he said after Saturday’s 44-18 rout of Arizona State at Husky Stadium. “But also, I’m happy in the locker room after a win. When we go talk to the media, it’s a little different because there’s all these cameras in your face and you don’t want to say anything wrong.
“I mean, like I said: I’m not a robot. I have fun. I like playing the game. But I’m kind of a perfectionist. That’s how I’ve always been. I enjoy the locker room more than I enjoy any interview, and I enjoy playing more than any interview. It’s nothing personal.”
That approach falls right in line with Chris Petersen’s. Coach and QB, two perfectly matched perfectionists.
“I probably appreciate him more because he’s got a calmer demeanor than I do,” Petersen said. “And I think it’s easier when you’re a player: You can just let (mistakes) go out there. As a coach on the sideline, it just gets bottled up and you try to bite your tongue as best you can. But I think the thing is we’re both really competitive, and he’s awesome. I try to do the best I can to not be too competitive and over-coach him, because he gets it.”
As a true freshman starter last year, Browning earned early on the respect of teammates and coaches.
“Jake’s definitely one of the most competitive guys I’ve ever met in my life,” UW senior left guard Jake Eldrenkamp said. “He hates to lose. Even in practice, losing a rep pisses him off.”
His is a quiet intensity few see. Browning will show it when challenged, as UW defenders try to do at times in practice.
“If you talk mess to Jake during practice he’ll come right back at you,” defensive tackle Elijah Qualls said. “He’s competitive, man. He’ll talk back. But the whole ‘hype man,’ yelling at people — that’s just not him. But don’t get (confused) — he’s one of the most fierce competitors I’ve ever met.”
Browning’s not shy about pointing out teammates’ mistakes; that works because of how demanding he is of himself.
“I’m hard on myself — I’m harder than anybody is on me,” he said. “And I’m kind of the point guy for the offense, so I just kind of do my deal. If I think someone messed up something and I think I can say something to help, then I’ll say something. I’m not afraid to talk to people, by any means.”
As a leader, Browning says he’ll never be the sort to stand up in the middle of the locker room and give a fiery pregame speech. That’s not who he is.
“It’s about having character; it’s about having connection to the guys; and it’s about having competence,” Petersen said of the leadership qualities he values. “All three of those things take time — and he has all three of those things. So you don’t have to be a rah-rah guy. You just have to be yourself, which he always is. And when you have those three things, guys are going to trust him.”
As a quarterback, Browning has earned everyone’s trust. His statistics reinforce that feeling: His 37 touchdowns this season are the most in UW history, and his efficiency rating of 180.72 is also on pace to shatter the single-season school record. And with 2,870 yards through 11 games, he has a chance to become just the third Husky quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards in a season (Cody Pickett and Keith Price being the others).
Entering Friday’s Apple Cup, he’s led the No. 6 Huskies (10-1, 7-1 Pac-12) to the brink of the conference championship game, in the hunt for the national playoffs, UW’s best season in 16 years.
A strong performance against Washington State — and, if UW gets there, another one in the Pac-12 title game next week — could send Browning to New York next month as just the second Heisman finalist in program history.
Not that he’s bothered much by any of that. He’s off studying film somewhere, dissecting a defense, perfecting a craft, and trying to enjoy a few moments along the way.