One of the harsh realities of being an 0-3 team is that impressive performances often find themselves overshadowed by the broader narrative. This issue is particularly true for someone like Lloyd Cushenberry III, who plays a thankless position that only draws attention when something goes wrong. 

After three seasons of not living up to his expectations, he has finally made himself one of the most consistent players on the offensive line at the center position. Currently, in his final year on his rookie deal, Cushenberry is doing everything he can to prove he’s the guy.

Finding Success in College

The fourth-year center was born on November 22, 1997, and grew up in Carville, LA, as the youngest of three. His football journey began at eight years old, diverging significantly from his family’s deep-seated love for basketball. He attended Dutchtown High School, where he initially played as an offensive tackle.

Cushenberry was labeled a three-star prospect by 247Sports and ESPN. As colleges showed interest in him, they saw the potential in his 6’3″ frame to transition to the center position despite his lack of experience.

Initially committing to Mississippi State, Cushenberry ultimately had a change of heart and opted to join Louisiana State University (LSU) instead as a last-day signee.

His journey at LSU began with a redshirted freshman season in 2016. As a redshirt freshman, he appeared in 11 games, contributing to special teams and featuring in six games on the offensive line. Cushenberry spent the year learning how to play center. During his redshirt sophomore year, he ascended to a starting role, appearing in all 13 games as the Tigers’ center. His impressive tally of 973 offensive snaps ranked him second on the team.

In his final year at LSU, Cushenberry received the coveted No.18 jersey, a symbol of LSU’s tradition, bestowed upon the player who best embodies the essence of an LSU football player, both on and off the field. He started in all 15 games at center, playing a pivotal role in the Tigers’ historic undefeated 15-0 season. Cushenberry played in every snap of the 2019 CFP National Championship game that resulted in a 42-25 victory over Clemson. With Cushenberry anchoring the offensive line, quarterback Joe Burrow claimed the Heisman Trophy, and LSU earned the prestigious Joe Moore Award for having the nation’s top offensive line.

He graduated in December 2019 with a degree in sports administration. Cushenberry announced that he would forgo his final collegiate season to enter the 2020 NFL Draft. 

Facing The Struggles of the NFL

Cushenberry was selected by the Denver Broncos in the third round as the 83rd overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Despite being a rookie, the Broncos named him their starting center.

He started all 16 games for the Broncos. He was one of only two rookies in the league to play 100 percent of their team’s offensive snaps. Unfortunately, it was a rough season for Cushenberry, who struggled immensely. Pro Football Focus named him the second-worst center for the 2020 season, with an overall grade of 40.5.

Following this tough rookie season, the Broncos introduced competition for Cushenberry by drafting Quinn Meinerz. The expectation was that Meinerz would take over at center. However, Meinerz faced difficulties adapting, and Cushenberry retained his starting position.

Although 2021 brought about improvement, Cushenberry still found himself ranked in the bottom ten in most statistical categories for centers. The 2022 season presented new challenges as, for the first time in his NFL career, had to contend with injuries. Cushenberry said he had been healthy enough to return but was told that other positions needed to be activated.

Building Momentum in 2023

As the 2023 season approached, many anticipated Cushenberry’s role would diminish. Some even speculated he might be released from the team. However, his much-improved performance during training camp made it clear that he was the undisputed starting center for the team.

Cushenberry has carried his impressive play into the regular season, with no sacks allowed and zero penalties over three weeks. He’s also allowed just one pressure. As the team looks to achieve any success, it’s evident that the offense will rely heavily on Cushenberry’s contributions. Hopefully, he can continue to build on this momentum and cement his place as a long-term starting NFL center for the Denver Broncos.