Seattle Seahawks

Huskies’ Jake Browning seeks to show his improved arm strength, and personality, at NFL combine

UW’s Jake Browning at NFL combine on expectations, what he learned in Chris Petersen’s program

University of Washington quarterback Jake Browning at NFL combine on expectations, what he learned in Chris Petersen’s program.
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University of Washington quarterback Jake Browning at NFL combine on expectations, what he learned in Chris Petersen’s program.

Jake Browning has two priorities for what he wants to show NFL teams at the combine and in the pre-draft process.

One is arm strength. Since the end of his college playing career at Washington, the Rose Bowl loss to Ohio State on New Year’s Day, the quarterback has been in Orange County, Calif., training. He has been doing weight training plus mobility and explosiveness drills to improve his core-muscle strength and the quick-twitch muscles in his upper back, to get better acceleration and snap on his throws.

Browning likes the results so far. He is excited to show off his recent work Saturday when he throws at the league’s annual scouting extravaganza.

“Show them the ball pops off my hand,” he said.

The second priority? Going, as he put it, “not scripted.” Showing off his personality.

The much-maligned QB entertainingly did that on Friday.

A reporter from The Oregonian in Portland asked one, two, then about six questions relating to Browning and Oregon, in a span of maybe five minutes. About “The Point” (we’ll get to that in a minute). About the rivalry between the Huskies and the Ducks.

Browning’s eyes began to roll like barrels.

He definitely, humorously, went unscripted when the guy asked what the toughest place to play was in the Pac-12.

“Are you from Oregon? It’s not Oregon,” Browning said.

“Utah is pretty hard.”

Then, he flashed a wry smile. Three people from Seattle who were standing in front of him laughed.

The News Tribune’s Gregg Bell from Indianapolis on the biggest Seahawks takeaways from the 2019 NFL combine.

Yes, he’s more than heard the critics that say he peaked too early at UW. That he regressed from a sophomore season when he was the Pac-12 offensive player of the year and led the Huskies to college football’s playoffs before faltering against mighty Alabama in the national semifinals. That he got worse from there, and never accomplished what he should.

He’s got a few words—not to mention two Pac-12 championships and a Rose Bowl game, plus all the major records for passing at Washington—for those of you believing that.

“You have to find things that you can anchor your confidence on, and not listen to anybody that has some opinion on you,” he said. “I mean, that’s great. But they aren’t playing the next game. You are. So you’ve just got to keep yourself isolated, not look into yourself too much when it’s going good or when it’s going bad, try to limit those avenues that people can reach (you). I’m not reading about myself. I’m not thinking about anything football-related...

“I’m pretty anchored on certain things I think get confidence from: preparation, being accurate, being able to create plays when they are not necessarily there.

“That’s something that no writer or reporter can take away from you.”

Neither is his legacy at UW, molded by coach Chris Petersen.

Asked to assess his legacy with the Huskies, Browning said: “I’ve been asked that question. A lot.

“I feel like I’ve put everything I had into that program. So there is some peace of mind in whatever decide my legacy was, or is, or whatever they want to talk about. I feel like I’ve worked really hard, put everything I had into it. So whatever that legacy is, or even if there is a legacy, so be it.

“I’m at peace with it.”

Oh, about “The Point”: Browning pointing at an Oregon defender he was zooming past on his way to the end zone was the unforgettable moment in the Huskies’ 70-21 smacking of the Ducks in Eugene in October 2016.

browningpoint
Washington quarterback Jake Browning points at an Oregon defender on his way to the end zone in the Huskies’ 70-21 runaway from the Ducks in Eugene in October 2016. Joshua Bessex/The News Tribune

Then-Huskies defensive back Kevin King told The News Tribune after that game: “I think that’s going to be a picture that’s going to be around forever, in terms of this Oregon-UW battle.

“They talk about The Pick? Nah. They’re gonna talk about the finger wag.”

In the past, Browning hasn’t wanted to talk about it. But he did Friday.

“In the moment, I was afraid of what Coach Pete was going to do,” Browning said. “Obviously, we played a pretty good game, and we are on the plane afterward coming home. And I’m sitting about three seats across from him. And I’m just kind of keeping my eyes straight, making sure I... like, I was really happy on the inside, but I didn’t want to get too happy and have him rip into me about doing something stupid like that.

“I mean, obviously, that was kind of out of character for me. I think that’s what people find even funnier, is that I don’t really do that kind of stuff very often. I hear about it all the time from teammates.”

Petersen ended up making Browning do 500 push-ups at practice.

The arm-strength question is among those that make Browning a late-round prospect, if he gets drafted. There is the possibility he will go undrafted, then need to take a rookie free-agent route to get his NFL shot.

The difference between Browning’s status at this combine and that of the event’s star, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Kyler Murray, whose stock here is rising toward being the top overall pick in April’s draft?

Media members about a dozen deep ringed Murray’s podium when he spoke on Friday, with cameras stacked on top of cameras on a platform behind that throng.

Browning had three reporters from Western Washington, that guy from Oregon and no cameras with him.

Browning said he’s had informal talks with the Seahawks at the combine, with new offensive assistant Austin Davis, Russell Wilson’s backup quarterback two years ago.

Has Browning had any awkward moments in interviews with teams?

“Not really. I think a lot of the awkward conversations come from if you’ve kind of had some off-the-field stuff. I haven’t really had any,” Browning said.

“I don’t have any felonies, or anything like that.”

Gregg Bell is the Seahawks and NFL writer for The News Tribune. In January 2019 he was named the Washington state sportswriter of the year by the National Sports Media Association. He started covering the NFL in 2002 as the Oakland Raiders beat writer for The Sacramento Bee. The Ohio native began covering the Seahawks in their first Super Bowl season of 2005. In a prior life he graduated from West Point and served as a tactical intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, so he may ask you to drop and give him 10.

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