Leilehua’s Netane Muti hopes to reward the Denver Broncos’ faith in selecting him in the NFL Draft

Sports

Fresno State offensive lineman Netane Muti runs a play during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Southern California Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, in Los Angeles. USC won 31-23. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

During his high school days at Leilehua, Netane Muti was always active under the bright Friday night lights. It just wasn’t as a football player at first.

“I started off in the marching band. I watched the football games while we played marching band and stuff like that,” he said. “That’s when I went out my next year. After that, I just fell in love with the game. Just kept going. This is my dream.”

Muti was originally a member of the Mules’ marching band, where he played snare drum. He joined the varsity football team and was a two-way star for two seasons, playing on the offensive and defensive lines.

He was originally a member of Nick Rolovich’s first Hawaii signing class in 2016 as a defensive lineman, but admission complications led him to sign with Fresno State instead. It was there he moved to the offense line on a full-time basis and blossomed into an NFL prospect. His football journey gained a new chapter when he was selected by the Denver Broncos in the NFL Draft on Saturday with the second pick of the sixth round.

“I was just excited,” he said. “I can’t thank the Broncos enough for this and I’m excited to work and win some games. I just want to be able to show them what I can do.”

At 6-foot-3 and 315 pounds, Muti has supreme physical gifts. He put his strength on display at February’s NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, where his 44 repetitions of the 225-pound bench press was a combine-high and just seven shy of Justin Ernest’s record in 1999.

Muti declared for the draft with a year of eligibility at Fresno State remaining. The only time he played a full season was in 2017, where he started all 14 games at left guard and earned All-Mountain West honors. Both his 2018 and 2019 seasons were cut short. Part of the reason to declare early was to have a healthy pre-draft process in case he got hurt during the 2020 season.

Muti was a top-50 prospect to some scouts, but injury concerns are what caused his slide in the draft. To Pro Football Focus’ Matt Renner, a healthy Muti has a chance to be a star in the league.

“Probably the best guard in this class if he can stay healthy and stay on the football field. I think they got a starting guard,” he said. “Not just a starting guard — a guy that can be an elite guard in the NFL in the sixth round.”

Broncos GM John Elway understands that the Muti is a high-risk but also a high-reward pick.

“We just felt that from where we were sitting and the grade that we had on him, we felt that we were gonna take a little bit of a risk with the medical but I really felt at the top of the sixth round, we’re getting tremendous value and it was worth the risk to be able to go ahead and take a chance on him,” Elway said.

Muti says the Lisfranc in his foot is recovering just fine. When he does get on the field, he’s eager to how the Broncos that they made the right choice.

“My foot’s doing great right now. Everything’s positive and moving in the right direction,” he said. “I’m just excited. I’m ready to give Bronco nation my all and with the injuries, it helped me be stronger. I’m able to go through stuff like that and I’m able to go through anything. I’m excited to be with the Broncos and get healthy and just have a long career.

“I think I’m the best guard in this class. I feel like they really got a steal.”

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