Florida game put Samford standout on NFL’s radar

Samford’s 70-52 loss to Florida on Nov. 13 drew national attention, including that of NFL talent evaluators. The Denver Broncos, in particular, took note of the Bulldogs wide receiver Montrell Washington and made him the sixth selection from Samford in the past 17 NFL drafts.

“At first, I kind of thought of it as just a game,” Washington said at the Broncos’ rookie minicamp this weekend, “but now that I’m here, I see that, OK, that’s kind of how I got to this. stage. “

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Against the Gators, Washington caught 10 passes for 124 yards, ran for 19 yards on three carries, returned five kickoffs for 179 yards and completed a 16-yard pass. He scored on a 98-yard kickoff return, a 23-yard reception and a 1-yard run. Washington’s 322 all-purpose yards were 28 more than any other player produced against an SEC team during the 2021 season.

“Talking to some of the Florida guys, the players on the team, we always ask who’s the best player you saw,” said Nick Schiralli, Denver’s assistant director of college scouting. “A couple of them named this kid. They saw what everybody saw – competitive, loves ball, works and really productive. “

Broncos special-teams coordinator Dwayne Stukes said Florida’s performance against Florida got his attention.

“(Wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni) brought him up,” Stukes said. “Coach Z said, ‘I have a receiver that I like. He’s a small slot receiver. Would you mind watching him as a returner? ‘ I put the tape on, obviously. I know there’s a lot of Florida graduates out there, so I apologize. But anytime you have a kid at Samford that has a big program versus production, it draws your attention, right? Coach Z brought him up, then I went and watched him, and I said, ‘This kid has talent.’ “

When the Broncos looked closely at Washington, they saw something else they really liked, Schiralli said.

“We always look for guys that love football,” Schiralli said. “When you watch Montrell’s film, you don’t have to ask that question. He’s so competitive – not just one of the most competitive wide receivers that I’ve done in this receiver class, but I’d say in the past few years. He just eats, breathes and sleeps football. “

The Broncos picked Washington in the fifth round of the 87th NFL Draft on April 30.

Denver had the worst kickoff-return rate in the NFL last season with a 16.2-yard average on 26 returns. The Broncos ‘punt-return average of 8.2 yards ranked 19th among the NFL’s 32 teams in 2021. Wide receiver Diontae Spencer made all but three of the Broncos’ punt and kickoff returns last season. He was not re-signed by Denver this offseason and is currently a free agent.

“I don’t think I’ve made it yet, to be honest with you,” Washington said. “Yes, I am here, but there is still a lot of work to be done. I’m hungry, to be honest with you. Every day I got to prove myself, I feel like, so definitely haven’t made it yet. “

In his final season with Samford, Washington caught 60 passes for 813 yards and nine touchdowns, ran 19 times for 140 yards and six touchdowns, returned 14 punts for a 17.4-yard average and two touchdowns and ran back 32 kickoffs for a 23.2-yard. average and one touchdown. He led the NCAA FCS with 1,938 all-purpose yards in 2021.

“I would say it’s just like backyard football, I guess,” Washington said of his approach as a returner. “As kids, you throw the football in the air, and you catch it, and all your friends try to get you. That ‘s kind of how a punt is returning for me when I’m back there. I feel like it’s a game, I’m in the backyard and I just got to score. “

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Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter @ AMarkG1General Chat Chat Lounge

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