Before he led Washington to a Pac-12 title and put the Huskies on the cusp of their first national title in a quarter-century, quarterback Jake Browning was the equivalent of a video game cheat code at Folsom High School in California from 2012-14.
According to MaxPreps, over his three years as the starting quarterback for the Bulldogs, Browning threw for combined totals of 16,775 passing yards with 229 touchdown passes and just 40 interceptions.
Browning's senior season was statistically absurd. He completed nearly 69 percent of his passes while throwing for 5,790 yards with 91 touchdown passes and seven interceptions.
In his 46 starts at Folsom, the Bulldogs went 44-2. That included finishing a perfect 16-0 in his senior season while capturing the CIF Division I state title and ending the year ranked as the No. 4 team in the country by MaxPreps.
|Folsom HS QB Jake Browning By the Numbers 2012-14|
|Year||GP||Record||Completions||Attempts||Yards||Comp. %||Yards Per Game||TD/INT|
But even after throwing 10 touchdown passes in his first start, it was an incompletion in his next game that let Troy Taylor know he had something special in Browning.
Taylor, the co-head coach and offensive coordinator at Folsom during Browning's career, recalled a conversation with Browning after a simple play from the opponent's 4-yard line that resulted in no points.
Taylor, now the quarterback's coach at Eastern Washington, called a play that featured a shallow crossing route from one side with a dig route on a deeper level in the end zone from the other side.
Browning threw the ball away after escaping pressure. When he got to the sideline, Taylor grilled his quarterback on why he didn't throw to his initial read.
Browning went into a long, detailed explanation of what he saw on the play. From his view, an official was in the way, and he knew he wouldn't have time to wait on that route or the dig because of pressure.
"Honestly, I thought he was full of crap," Taylor told Bleacher Report recently.
"I was thinking that I know what I saw and that the shallow cross was open. So I watched the film when I got home, and his description of the play was picture perfect. Every detail he told me he saw live was exactly how it was on video, which is extraordinary. That's the point where I realized he's pretty unique. It was almost like he had a photographic memory."
Taylor has known Browning since he was "nine or 10 years old." Back then, he mentored quarterbacks as a trainer, and Browning was one of his early pupils.
Even though he knew Jake had the tools to be successful, he had to learn more after observing him in game situations. One thing immediately stood out in his first start.
"You wouldn't be able to tell if he had thrown five interceptions or 10 touchdown passes; he had the same disposition and mindset. That was the first thing that jumped out to me," Taylor said.
"When you work with a guy, you never know what you are going to get until you see him in live action. He just lit it up, and he wasn't giddy on the sidelines. For him, it was kind of like a normal day at the office. That's when I knew he had a chance to be pretty special. He played like that for pretty much the next three years."
Taylor says the system he uses puts the onus on the quarterback.
"The environment we had there, we threw the ball a lot," Taylor explained. "He learned that we were going to throw the ball whether we were on our own 1-yard line or on the opponent's 1-yard line.
"If the quarterback doesn't play well—in some offenses, you have a chance to win. But in our offense, if the quarterback doesn't play well, you are going to lose. Everything goes through the QB. Jake was used to that since he started as a sophomore, and he was just always consistent."
While his numbers were impressive, his recruitment was largely quiet in comparison to other touted passers for a few reasons.
For starters, he wasn't active on the camp circuit at any point in his recruitment. He preferred to stay home and work out with his teammates in pursuit of the state title that eluded him until his final season.
Brian Stumpf, the president of the Elite 11 quarterback camp, is based in Southern California. Since he has a longstanding relationship with Taylor dating back to his days in college at California, it didn't take him long to learn of Browning's exploits.
Even though Browning chose not to compete at camps such as Elite 11, Stumpf and his staff still dug into his film to evaluate him. Right away, Stumpf saw traits that separated Browning from the pack.
"I think when we got to see the film on him, it's how quickly he can read and process information and get the ball out of his hands and to his playmakers," Stumpf said. "He was a guy that understood what his guys were doing and also what the 11 guys on defense were trying to do to him. He was able to read and diagnose quickly and make quick decisions."
Browning was part of a touted 2015 quarterback class in the state of California that included highly touted prospects such as current UCLA star Josh Rosen, USC starter Sam Darnold and former Alabama signee Blake Barnett, among others. But he didn't attract the same type of attention as some of the other great passers from the Golden State.
Utah was the first school to offer him in the spring before his junior year. Not far behind the Utes was Mountain West power Boise State.
The Broncos were led by then-head coach Chris Petersen—who, unlike most coaches, rarely handed out offers to prospects early in their careers.
"[Petersen and his staff] didn't offer a lot of sophomores that were going to be juniors when he was at Boise State," said Brandon Huffman, the national director of recruiting for Scout. "They were more wanting to offer guys after they saw them through their junior year. That's how much of an impression Browning made on them."
Later in the process, a handful of programs—most notably Alabama—came in and offered him in the spring before his senior year.
In the end, despite taking unofficial visits to schools such as California and Washington State, Browning's recruitment boiled down to two programs: Boise State and Washington.
However, Huffman notes that both the Broncos and Huskies had their sights set on Browning and fellow 4-star passer Brett Rypien.
"What it really came down to was a matter of him or Brett Rypien. At that point, Washington had offered both guys, and they essentially told them both, 'The first to commit is the only quarterback we are taking,'" Huffman said.
"Had Brett Rypien committed the day before Browning, they wouldn't have dropped Rypien for Browning. They would've kept Rypien. It was that close between those two between who they liked."
Shortly after taking an unofficial visit to Washington in March 2014, Browning committed to the Huskies—a little more than four months after Petersen had left Boise for Seattle. Rypien ended up signing with the Broncos and became their starter by the end of the first month of his freshman season.
In committing to Petersen early, Browning gave his future head coach his first signature recruit in his initial full cycle at Washington.
Browning enrolled early at Washington and took over as the Huskies starting quarterback two games into his freshman year.
Since then, he's piloted the Huskies to 19 wins in his 25 starts—including helping lead his club to a 12-1 record and a Pac-12 title while clinching a spot in the College Football Playoff.
His next challenge will be to topple reigning national champion Alabama. But as Yogi Roth of the Pac-12 Network surmises, don't expect Browning to be overwhelmed with the challenge of facing the Crimson Tide.
"His passion is as good as anyone I've ever been around," Roth said. "His desire to compete and find a little nugget that can help is as good as anyone I've ever been around in college. Clearly, he will have to get the ball out against that defensive front. But I don't think he's going to go in there wide-eyed and unprepared. I'd be shocked if that happened."
Regardless, Browning has delivered on the promise he showed after a prolific prep career at Folsom.
Taylor said he isn't surprised to see Browning as one of the main reasons for the Huskies' rise to national prominence.
After all, he witnessed the same phenomenon at Folsom just a few years ago, and he understands why Browning is enjoying success so early into his college career.
"He's a ferocious competitor. He's a really tough guy who wants to win," Taylor said. "He's mild-mannered off the field, but he's a killer on the field. You put those things together, and how relaxed he is in pressure situations, he's pretty unique.
"He has an incredible work ethic and innate gifts as well. You put all those things together, and you have an incredible quarterback. That is what he is."
Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of Scout.com.