Jonah Williams first heard about his future high-school teammate Jake Browning the same way a lot of people first heard about Jake Browning: as that quarterback at Folsom High School who threw all those touchdown passes.
After moving from Atlanta to California prior to his sophomore year of high school, Williams, now a true freshman starting at right tackle for No. 1 Alabama, played one season for Davis High before transferring to Folsom. On the team bus after games, it was not uncommon for Browning and his dominant Folsom squad to be a topic of conversation.
It typically went something like this, Williams said: “Oh, Folsom won 63-0 again and Jake Browning threw whatever, seven touchdowns, or something like that. So I heard his name, and you kind of assume a superstar quarterback is going to have an ego and stuff like that.”
When Williams arrived at Folsom for his first practice the following year, he learned that wasn’t the case.
“He came off the field and introduced himself to me, because I was the new kid or whatever, and I kind of assumed he would be too good for that,” Williams said Thursday at Peach Bowl media day. “He was wearing an old t-shirt and stuff, doing his thing. The first thing that struck me was he didn’t have this big superstar ego or anything like that. He came across as really humble, so I think, ‘That’s going to be a good kid.’ ”
The two became close friends — and coveted recruits. Browning, a year older, committed to Washington earlier than most prospects, choosing to bypass the recruiting camp circuit. Williams, himself a reserved sort, adapted the same philosophy when he began fielding offers of his own.
In that way, Williams said, Browning was “kind of a mentor for me.”
“I really admired how he didn’t do all the flashy stuff,” Williams said. “He didn’t do all that because he didn’t need to. He went out there and threw a million touchdowns his senior year.”
Browning set a national high-school record with 229 touchdown passes. Williams was a good enough offensive tackle that Alabama wanted him – and started him as a true freshman on what appears to be one of the best college football teams in history.
The two exchange texts during the season. They root for each other. Just not this week, obviously.
“Just plan on saying hi before the game,” Browning said, “and hopefully he misses every block and stays healthy.”
Williams is interested to see how Browning fares against Alabama’s top-ranked defense.
“He’s a pretty level-headed guy,” Williams said, “but there’s a storm coming.”
GRIFFIN TRIES HOOPS
No matter how much he enjoys his role as a walk-on receiver for the Huskies football team, Connor Griffin knows he will always be pulled toward the basketball court.
So he’s back on it, practicing recently with UW’s basketball team before the football team departed for Atlanta to begin Peach Bowl preparations.
“Basketball was always my first love,” Griffin said at Thursday’s Peach Bowl media day at the Georgia Dome. “As much as I enjoy football, I think there’s always going to be a little piece of me that’s going to be stuck with basketball no matter what I do.
“I feel like I want to explore that avenue again and see what I can do, especially with the team they have right now. I feel like (coach Lorenzo) Romar’s a great coach to play for. He really encourages all his players, lets them play how they want. It’s something you don’t get in a coach all the time, so it’s kind of cool to experience that.”
Before he came to UW, Griffin, a 6-foot-3, 223-pound junior, spent two seasons as a walk-on basketball player at Gonzaga. He starred in both sports at Lake Oswego High School, though an injury wiped out his junior basketball season and impacted his recruitment.
After transferring to Washington, Griffin appeared in eight games as a third-year sophomore in 2015, making his first career reception in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. He’s played in seven games this season, including a start in UW’s season opener against Rutgers.
Football remains his focus, and for now, he’s only with the basketball team as a practice player. He isn’t sure whether his role will expand to suiting up and sitting on the bench during games, saying “that’s something we’ll just kind of address once the season’s over.”