The final score of Monday’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game was not indicative of how most of the game went.
The contest between Michigan and Washington was close for three-plus quarters and ended with the Wolverines capturing their first football national title in a quarter century.
It also showed sports fans that in an era of NIL deals, the transfer portal and social media, sportsmanship still exists.
Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. arguably deserved this year’s Heisman trophy but instead got a chance to play for a national title.
He fell short with Washington falling 34-13 to a team with a defensive line that was arguably the country’s toughest unit all season.
Penix took shots downfield all night and shots from Michigan’s smothering front seven.
The Michigan defense finished with one sack, but got after Michael Penix Jr. the entire game!
— DLineVids (@dlinevids1) January 9, 2024
When the final seconds ticked off the clock and the blue and yellow confetti started to fall in Houston, a dejected and obliviously injured Penix walked his way gingerly into his team’s tunnel and toward the locker room.
Wolverines senior linebacker Jaylen Harrell could have spent those moments celebrating with his teammates.
Instead, ESPN cameras caught him in hot pursuit of Penix, who he shared some words with at the entrance to the Huskies’ tunnel.
Michael Penix Jr. walking off the field following the #NationalChampionship game.
The sportsmanship shown from Michigan’s Jaylen Harrell 🤝 pic.twitter.com/S8wi4pTzQH
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 9, 2024
One X user described Harrell’s actions as “classy,” and there is simply no better way to describe them.
Classy move by Jaylen Harrell to come over to Michael Penix Jr. as he left the field.pic.twitter.com/cjIzMcdwYa
— ✶ Ⓜ️𝕒𝕣𝕔𝕦𝕤 ▶️ ✶ (@_MarcusD3_) January 9, 2024
Harrell played tough in what was a very, very physical game.
Michigan was only up by seven points with mere minutes to play in the fourth quarter before an electric Michigan drive and a turnover by Penix put the game away.
BLAKE CORUM TOUCHDOWN MICHIGAN‼️‼️ The Wolverines lead Washington 27-13 with less than 8 minutes to go pic.twitter.com/MqLAytXt3M
— Lukas Galecki-Shofroth (@TGNCoverage) January 9, 2024
Michael Penix Jr. throws an interception and likely seals Michigan’s victory pic.twitter.com/ppYYFKgysv
— Tanner Phifer (@TannerPhiferNFL) January 9, 2024
Before celebrating and rather than rubbing the win in anyone’s face, Harrell showed a sense of empathy — putting another before himself.
He shared a moment not with his own quarterback but with the man who started 13 drives on the side of the line of scrimmage opposite to him.
The way the game was played and Harrell’s overt display of respect for his opponent are the things that many of us college football fans love.
While Penix did not walk away from Monday evening’s game with any hardware, he is an NFL-ready quarterback who will definitely be throwing passes on Sundays in the NFL for seasons to come.
It’s one heck of a consolation prize for a young man who obviously has big dreams and big goals.
But the takeaway here is that the final game of the College Football Playoff as we know it concluded with a show of sportsmanship after both teams left everything out on the field.
Next season, 12 teams and not four will vie for the title as the sport hits its next chapter.
The next chapters for both Harrell and Penix have also yet to be written, but the moment they shared after Monday’s game is one reason college football is so fun to watch.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.