In the return of "Rookie Diaries," we're thrilled to announce that third-round pick Lloyd Cushenberry III will offer us a consistent first-person look at his rookie season in Denver. During the inevitable ups and downs of his first year with the Broncos, Cushenberry will reflect on big moments, defining plays and his growth as a player and person.
In this first installment, Cushenberry reflects on being named the Broncos' starting center for Week 1 and how his football career has led to his moment.
My first start came in a youth football game. It was 2006, and I was 8 years old.
My mom was leaving work and saw some kids on the field, and she stopped to ask what was going on. The guy said they were having tryouts. She called home, and I was just excited to sign up for football. That's when it all started. I remember my first game, I just had butterflies. I still get some butterflies, but I was just excited to finally get to play football because most of my family always played basketball. I was really the first person to take football seriously, and I played tight end and defensive end.
Years later, my first start at LSU was special to me because we were at the Dallas Cowboys' stadium playing against Miami. It was a great game, a great atmosphere, and I just remember going into that year, we had a lot of doubters as a team, and especially myself. A lot of people were doubting me and didn't think I could play. Heading into that game, I just had the mindset that it was time to prove that I belonged.
That's the same mindset I have today. Coming into Monday night as the Broncos' starting center, I want to prove I can play at this level and that I can do my job at a high level.
It was great to earn the job and just see all my hard work pay off. That started back in the offseason. Even back then when everything was shut down and the pandemic was going on, my goal was just to keep putting in work. I knew once we got back to football, there would be no excuses just because we didn't have OTAs or we weren't able to do anything other than virtual meetings. There would be no excuses from anyone. I just had that mindset working out and wanted to be prepared 100 percent once I got to Denver.
I really took the virtual meetings seriously by taking great notes and trying to be as organized as possible. I still have the binder — kind of like my dictionary — of the installs and all the calls I have to make. I still go back to that if I have something that I have to think about or anything. I still try to stay organized and take great notes. Once I got here in person, all the older guys were helping me out, pulling me along, even Austin Schlottmann and Pat Morris, who I was competing with for the job. If I have a question, they won't hesitate to answer, and they've been helping me out.
Obviously, it was a goal of mine to come in and earn the starting job. It's a blessing that I was able to do so, but honestly, the work is just beginning. It's not the end. I have a big task ahead of me and I'm looking forward to the challenge of every day proving that I belong and that I'm the guy for job. The real work starts now, and I've got to work 10 times harder to keep the job. It's the NFL now. It's a business. I've got to do my job, and if I don't, they're going to move on. I need to come in every day and come in with the mindset to get the job done.
On Monday against the Titans, the main thing I want to do is just do my job and get the win. That's the main goal. Obviously, I have my personal goals, but the main thing is winning the football game and doing everything I can do personally starting now to make sure that this team has the best chance possible to win the game. That's my goal: to do my job and get the win.
On game day, my usual routine will be a little different. I'm in a new place with a new schedule. I'm not really superstitious, other than that I love fruit snacks. Before the game, when we come back in for warmups, I eat two packs. And then during halftime I eat two packs. At LSU we had Welch's, but I love fruit snacks, so any kind works. Other than that, it's just finding that routine during the week of when do I watch film? When do I get to bed and get good rest?
After the game, though, my routine never changes. The first thing I do after every game — win or lose, I've always done it — I come straight home, and I wait for the film to be uploaded. I have to watch the film right after the game. It's something I've always done. It's part of my routine.
As soon as the game's over, I'm coming home and watching film and getting ready for the next opponent. There's no time to waste. There's no time to celebrate a win or dwell on a loss for too long. It's on to the next one.