On Sunday, the Broncos will face their most challenging opponent yet in the San Francisco 49ers. After just two weeks of play, the team is already facing a slew of injuries to their offensive roster. 

Rookie wide receiver Montrell Washington has been proving himself worth the fifth-round pick that was used on him. He saw increased usage in Week 2 and continues to give Denver a reason to utilize him more and more. 

However, Washington is used to the slow burn as he’s constantly been an underdog, being overlooked since his high school days.

Breaking High School Records

Washington was born in Marietta, GA, and grew up in a family of four with his mom, dad, and younger brother. 

He moved to Canton, GA, with his Godparents in eighth grade. According to Washington, it was the best decision he ever made because he was exposed to a different level of football and met many lifelong friends.

Washington attended Cherokee High School and not only played football but also ran track. He’s still the school record holder in the 100 meters, 200 meters, and the 4×100 and 4×200 relays.

Washington amassed 2,265 all-purpose yards in his senior year, another school record. He caught 93 passes for 1,086 yards and ten touchdowns, had 74 carries for 801 yards and seven touchdowns, and returned eight kickoffs for 283 yards and a touchdown. This earned him his high school team’s MVP award.

Off the field, his grades were low during his freshman year, and he spent the next three years digging himself out of a hole with the goal of playing college ball. 

Even with such an impressive high school playing career, Washington was a zero-star recruit, though he did receive a few offers. He ultimately committed to playing football at Samford University.

Washington’s first two seasons as a Bulldog went mainly unnoticed. 

However, in his junior year, Washington was named first-team All-American as a return specialist and averaged over 20 yards per return. As a senior, he led the FBS with 1,967 all-purpose yards.

He finished his college career, appearing in 49 career games. He totaled 148 receptions, 1,883 yards, and 17 touchdowns as a wide receiver. As a kick and punt returner, he amassed a combined 1,846 return yards on 95 attempts with five touchdowns.

Handpicked by Russell Wilson

Washington wasn’t invited to the 2022 NFL Combine, though he did participate in several pro days.

Before the 2022 NFL Draft, Washington was projected to go undrafted. The Athletic had him ranked the 70th best wide receiver. 

Despite this, Washington was selected by the Denver Broncos in the fifth round with the 162nd pick.  

In 2021, the Broncos averaged the least amount of kickoff return yards and didn’t have a single punt return for more than 25 yards. Although there was potential that George Paton could have signed him as an undrafted rookie, he didn’t want to risk missing out on an opportunity to improve the return game significantly.

Russell Wilson, Nathaniel Hackett, and Paton spent many hours watching receiving prospects before the draft. In a press conference, Wilson revealed he voiced support for drafting Washington. “We watched every single guy, and then we came across this guy named Montrell Washington. We looked at each other like, ‘He may be the one.'”

Through two weeks, Washington is averaging 12.4 yards per return, ranking him sixth in the league. Against Houston, he totaled 59 punt return yards in four returns, averaging 14.8 yards per return. 

KJ Hamler has been battling injuries and sat out last week, though he is projected to play on Sunday. Jerry Jeudy left Sunday’s game early and has yet to return to practice this week. Although Washington has only been targeted once, as the Broncos’ offense continues to evolve, it’s safe to assume they will start turning to him to get more involved, not just on special teams.

He showed flashes of what he can do as a receiver in the preseason. There’s an ample opportunity for the team to let him display it in primetime on Sunday against the most formidable team they’ve faced yet.

The Denver Broncos (1-1) host the San Francisco 49ers (1-1) in a Sunday Night Football showdown on Sunday at 6:20 p.m. MST.