Player Profile: Lloyd Cushenberry is dedicated to making that second year leap

Denver Broncos center Lloyd Cushenberry III (79) against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field.
Sep 19, 2021; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Denver Broncos center Lloyd Cushenberry III (79) against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In his second year in the NFL, Lloyd Cushenberry III is trying to cement himself as a solidified starter.

Going into the 2021 season, he knew his job wasn’t safe. Cushenberry spent the preseason completely focused on preparation, saying, “In the offseason, I went straight to work. I knew last year wasn’t good enough. I just went straight to work and put my head down all offseason and grinded.”

It’s been a rough season for the Broncos, but Cushenberry is determined to turn the sinking ship around.  

On and Off the Field Greatness

Cushenberry grew up in Carville, Louisiana, and attended Dutchtown High School. 

He initially played tackle in high school. However, as colleges started reaching out, teams voiced their desire for him to switch to guard or center.

Cushenberry was set to attend Mississippi State up until the day before signing day in 2016. However, he received a call from Louisiana State University with an offer and couldn’t say no. 

As he was a relatively unknown recruit for such a prestigious football team, Cushenberry came in with a chip on his shoulder. He was determined to prove himself.

“Knowing not a lot of people knew about me, I just wanted to prove myself every day, and still to this day, I just want to continue to prove that I belong at this level,” he said. 

After redshirting his freshmen year, Cushenberry played in 11 games his first season and was named LSU’s starting center in his sophomore year. 

His junior year, 2019, was the year Cushenberry made a name for himself. Before the season started, he was awarded the honor of wearing jersey No. 18. This yearly honor is bestowed on an LSU player who is deemed the best representative of the program on and off the field.

When Cushenberry’s then offensive line coach James Kregg was asked why he received the honor, he said, “He’s a lead-by-example guy, and even though he came in really quiet, eventually he became the voice within the room.”

Because of his position, he could not wear the actual number #18 jersey and instead wore it as a patch.

He was named to the first-team All-SEC nod, and LSU’s offensive line was awarded the best offensive line in college football, the Joe Moore Award. LSU would go on to win the National Championship in 2019. Cushenberry blocked for and was instrumental in the success of the 2019 Heisman winner and 2020 first overall pick, Joe Burrow.

Following the season, Cushenberry announced that he would forgo his final season to enter the 2020 NFL Draft. 

Ups and Downs of the NFL

The Denver Broncos selected Cushenberry in the third round, the 83rd overall pick, of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Because of COVID 19, Cushenberry didn’t get a standard in-person offseason program, full training camp, or preseason games. However, he beat out veterans Austin Schlottmann and Patrick Morris for the starting center job.

Cushenberry finished his rookie season, starting in all 16 games and playing in every single offensive snap. He was the only Broncos player to do so.

Despite this, the Broncos made sure he wouldn’t be comfortable heading into the 2021 season when they drafted center Quinn Meinerz in the third round of the NFL Draft.

Cushenberry wasn’t surprised by the pick.

“[I] expected [it] based on how I played last year…Competition is good for everyone,” he said. “We’re going to push each other.”

While Meinerz stole the spotlight for his on-the-field attire and belly sticking out, Cushenberry was locked in his play. In a preseason battle, Cushenberry ended up running away with the victory.  

Vic Fangio was impressed with his improvement and said, “Lloyd has definitely improved. Had a great offseason both physically and mentally, got stronger, studied the game, had the OTAs, the minicamp. You always look for a big jump from Year 1 to Year 2. I think he’s in the process of doing that.”

Unfortunately, his 2021 season has been rocky. In two games this season, Cushenberry has been given the lowest graded offensive starter according to Pro Football Focus. However, he has also been among the top 5 on the team for other weeks.

Now halfway through the season, Cushenberry still has time to prove he’s the man for the job and that giant leap that he’s clamoring for.

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