DENVER — In January, Lloyd Cushenberry won the national championship with the LSU Tigers as Joe Burrow’s center.
In the fall, the starting center became the first offensive lineman to be given the prestigious No. 18 jersey at LSU — which he wore as a patch. The honor, a school tradition for the past 15 years, is given to a player that displays a selfless attitude and encompasses what it means to be an LSU Tiger.
Yet, four years ago, the now-third-round pick by the Broncos had never played a snap at the position that landed him in the NFL.
“Shortly after I had signed to go to LSU, I knew I was either going to play guard or center because in high school I played tackle, but didn’t really have the height to play tackle at the next level,” the 6-foot-3, 312-pounder told the Denver media on Friday night after being drafted by the Broncos.
“I definitely knew I had to learn how to snap the ball,” he added. “I never had.”
After having never played center, Cushenberry needed to learn the fundamentals before checking into Baton Rouge. So, naturally, he turned to the source where many teenagers look for information.
“I just went on YouTube one day and found a few videos of an old Washington Redskins O-line coach teaching people how to snap,” the now NFL center said. “I really just watched the video, and right after that, went outside and started taking some snaps. After a while and a lot of repetition, it just became a habit and I just kind of got it down pat.”
Lloyd got it down alright. In 2019, he was named a first-team All-SEC center and a second-team All-American center. On Friday night, he found himself in a prime position to be the Broncos’ starting center in 2020 working under a Hall of Famer, Broncos offensive-line coach Mike Munchak.
The transition from tackle to center wasn’t completely foreign to him, however. But it had nothing to do with his football background.
“Growing up, I was a huge basketball fan. My whole family pretty much played basketball, so I’m the first guy really to take football seriously. Now I’m looking back, and now me playing center, like I said, it’s like playing point guard which I love having the responsibility of communicating with everyone,” Cushenberry said. “[I like] having that burden on your shoulders to get everyone in line and everything go accordingly.”
“In football, at center, you’re the head guy. You make all the calls; you make sure everything’s straight,” he said, adding his favorite player growing up was Kobe Bryant.
Making the jump from college to the NFL won’t be as difficult as Cushenberry won’t be changing positions. In fact, John Elway even said on Friday night Cushenberry will be competing for the starting job.
Another aspect that will make the transition easier is playing in then-coordinator Joe Brady’s spread offense at LSU last year.
“I think it will be huge because we had to deal with a lot, being in so much five-man pro [protection],” Cushenberry said, crediting his final year at LSU to his transition to the next level. “We had to deal with a lot of different blitzes and had to pick them up on the fly most of the time. I know in the NFL it’s not as much five-man pro, so I feel like just having that year in the NFL-style system with Coach Brady has helped me a lot.”
The biggest challenge for Cushenberry as he makes the transition will be getting down the playbook, especially since at least the beginning of the offseason will be done remotely. Saying that, however, he’s no stranger to putting in the work — which is what learning the playbook is all about. He’s got a No. 18 patch to prove it, too.
“I put in a lot of work, as far as doing things on my own, and taking accountability to learn the playbook,” he said. “I know it’s going to be different from a college system, but I feel like I’m ready for that challenge and I’m looking forward to it.”
Cushenberry’s jump from high school to college couldn’t have ended much better despite having to learn a new position over YouTube. Now, not only will he not have to learn a new position, he’ll have Munchak, not YouTube, to lean on.