Folsom Prism Views – Prep Teammates Jake Browning, Jonah Williams at it Again With Bengals

The last time Bengals teammates Jonah Williams and Jake Browning started a game together, they won a high school state championship.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Jake Browning may be making his first NFL start Sunday, and Jonah Williams is just halfway through his first season as a right tackle.

But despite so much being fresh and new, there will be an old, comforting feeling when the two are looking each other in the eye during the huddle.

How Far Back Do Jake Browning, Jonah Williams Go?

Browning and Williams won a California state championship together their senior year at Folsom High School, with Browning throwing for 92 touchdown passes that season while setting state records for career pass attempts (1,708), completions (1,191), yards (16,755), and touchdowns (229).

“He was setting all the records, so yeah, I definitely thought he could make it to the NFL,” Williams said. “It’s been exciting to see him have a great college career, and he carved out a career in the NFL, and now he has an opportunity. He’s been here grinding with his head down for a long time, and I know he’s ready for it.”

At the University of Washington, Browning set numerous school and Pac-12 records as a four-year starter. He threw 43 touchdown passes his sophomore year and led the Huskies to what remains the school’s only appearance in the College Football Playoff in 2017 (against Williams and the University of Alabama).

Browning ended his first weekly news conference as the starting quarterback by predicting Washington’s CFP dry spell will end this year and that UW quarterback Michael Penix Jr. will win the Heisman.

“Every level that I played in, I’ve won, and so there’s something to be said about that,” Browning said. “There were years in college where I was throwing a bunch. There were years in college where I was managing run checks when we became more of a running team.

“I’ve always been called sneaky athletic. I’m not sure where the sneaky part is coming in. But I think that’s always been a joke, is to always under-promise and over-deliver on athleticism, and you’ll always be sneaky athletic.”

MORE: Jake Browning Likely Not the Only Change in Bengals’ Starting Lineup Sunday

What stood out most for Williams was Browning’s accuracy — and not just in games. Sometimes it was just messing around before or after practice.

“Just outrageously good accuracy,” Williams said. “I’d watch him throw balls and hit the crossbar on the goal post like 10 times in a row with no problem.”

But for Williams, it’s the process as much as the production that always has impressed him since those high school days on a team that also featured Green Bay Packers tight end — and former Cincinnati Bearcat — Josiah Deguara and was coached by Troy Taylor, now the head coach at Stanford, and Chris Richardson, the assistant head coach at Sacramento State.

“It’s not just who he is as a football player, but mentally he’s a really hard worker and super even keel,” Williams said. “He’s not going to be overwhelmed by the atmosphere. I don’t think any stage is too big for him. No moment is too big for him. He’s not going to be kind of wide-eyed or anything like that. He’s just super surgical with how he does things.”

Precision will be a priority Sunday when Browning makes his NFL starting debut against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Williams engages in his first game-long battle with 2021 Defensive Player of the Year and three-time All-Pro T.J. Watt.

A career left tackle before this season, Williams made the switch to right tackle when the team signed Orlando Brown Jr. in free agency, which means he should be spending most of Sunday’s game working against Watt, who has been lined up over the RT on 612 of his 620 snaps this season.

MORE: ‘The Last 2 Games Have Been Terrible’

It’s a long way from Folsom High School, where Browning and Williams led an undefeated season with an average margin of victory of 42 points — with all 16 contests ending with a running clock (activated when the margin hits 35).

The final score in the state championship game against undefeated Oceanside was 68-7. But forget 68 points on Sunday. Browning’s leading receiver may struggle to get 68 yards against Pittsburgh’s defense.

“The last two days, I’ve watched a lot of Steelers tape,” Browning said Wednesday. “I feel like I’ve been in the room when we’ve played them a lot. I kind of got a good feel for what they’re doing on defense at this point in the week, and now it’s what are we doing to attack that?

“We know Larry (Ogunjobi), and everybody knows T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith, and Cam Hayward’s been there for what feels like forever,” Browning continued. “They’ve always played at a very high level, and I think they kind of set the tone really for the whole team, just creating so many negative plays, causing a lot of turnovers, rushing quarterbacks into their reads. That’s really where it starts, is not letting them completely take over the game.”

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