DENVER — When Netane Muti was born, he was one of 100,000 people on the small islands of the Kingdom of Tonga, located in the southern Pacific Ocean.
By the time Muti was in high school, his family had moved to the much larger islands of Hawaii. His career on the football field actually began by hitting the snare drum as a member of the marching band.
After taking in a season of football from the marching band’s perspective, Muti traded in his drum for pads.
“This was my dream,” Muti said, telling the Denver media on Saturday his unique story on how he fell in love with football.
He may have played the snare drum well, but he most certainly played football better. Despite not playing his entire high school career, Muti established himself as an all-state offensive and defensive lineman in Hawaii.
His future couldn’t have been brighter.
But then the injury bug bit him. And bit him. And bit him.
He was redshirted his 2016 season at Fresno State due to an Achilles injury. He missed all but two games of the 2018 season with a ruptured Achilles. And finally, he missed all but three games of his final season in 2019 due to a Lisfranc injury.
According to Muti, his foot is doing “great” recovering from the Lisfranc injury.
“Everything is positive. Moving in the right direction. Doctors saying it’s doing good. Everything is going well so far. I feel great,” he said, minutes after being drafted by the Broncos in the sixth round. “If I’m able to go through stuff like that, I’m able to go through anything. I’m excited to just be with the Broncos and get healthy and just have a long career.”
The 2017 season was the only season in which he played a full year — every snap at left guard. And boy was that season special. Despite it being over two years ago, and only playing five games since, Muti was so dominant on the offensive line, he earned high praise during the draft process.
“I think I’m the best guard in this class,” he said with booming confidence. “I feel like [the Broncos] really got a steal.”
He isn’t lying, either. Many outlets had him rated as one of the best guards in the 2020 NFL Draft. On the DNVR top-200 Big Board, Muti was the fourth-best interior offensive lineman with a third-round grade. According to Pro Football Focus, he was the second-best guard in the draft. The Broncos landed him with the 181st overall pick.
“I’m a dominant guard,” he said, detailing why he’s the best of the class. “I can pass pro as well. I’m just excited. I can’t thank the Broncos enough for this. I’m just excited to get to work.”
Despite dropping rounds and even days in the draft due to a frightening injury history, Muti mixed in excited chuckles with the confident statements about himself.
“A strong, powerful and tough player who did 44 reps at 225 at the combine,” John Elway wrote on Twitter about his sixth-round pick. “Netane is a powerful run blocker and a strong anchor vs bullrushers as well.”
Before taking to Twitter on Saturday afternoon, instead of going with the safe “red” or “black” options on the metaphorical-roulette table, Elway placed his money on a single number. The fortunate part of the risky bet on Muti was he didn’t go all-in since it was merely a sixth-round pick. But the upside of the young guard was as good as the potential 35-1 return.