Fresno’s offensive line coach, Ryan Grubb, rallied his players to watch film after plaguing FCS opponent Incarnate Word in their 2017 season opener when he first discovered Netane Muti’s intense pursuit of perfection.
Muti, who was selected at number 181 in the April draft by the Broncos (sixth round), was a freshman red-neck that season. He had a strong first game, but not clear. Grubb pointed out to his group of linemen some of the guard’s mental mistakes.
Grubb later returned to his football office to find Muti – a 6-foot-3 Polynesian muler born in the South Pacific – who was inside with an emotional request and a promise.
“He was waiting for me, tears in his eyes, and he wanted to know how he could fix this,” said Grubb. “He said to me, ‘Coach, I never want to be the weak link again.'”
Ask Grubb, since he’s been promoted to offensive coordinator, and the boy held up on his deal.
But Muti’s NFL dreams now depend on a similar question. After three season-end injuries over four years, Broncos’ offensive line coach Mike Munchak wonders: Will Muti strengthen the chain?
“My injuries helped me get stronger,” said Muti. “It gave me a lot of adversity, but I fought through it. If I can get through things like that, I can get through anything. I look forward to being with the Broncos, getting healthy and having a long career. “
In 2017, Muti started 14 games in Fresno state with honorable mentions for standing against elite rushers such as Daron Payne (Alabama), Vita Vea (Washington), and Ed Oliver (Houston). Fresno state teammates voted Muti team captain as a junior. He broke the school’s bank press record – about £ 550, Grubb said – and Muti later hit 44 reps of 225 with the NFL Combine; most by offensive line outlook since 2012.
Grubb said that some pro scouts Muti scored as high as the second round with his exceptional strength, technique and character. So why did Muti slip to Denver?
“Because of the injury history,” said Grubb. “I know all the teams I spoke to in the NFL, that was their only hang-up. Netane has everything you need on the field. ‘
Muti’s series of accidents in the state of Fresno was devastating.
A torn Judge Achilles kept him out of his first season on campus. Two years later Muti tore his left Achilles. And last season, he sustained a Lisfranc injury – a broken bone in his left foot. In total, he played in only five games in the past two years.
Grubb was there in 2018 when Muti left the field against Minnesota with his second torn Achilles. Muti came back from the dressing room in a boot. Subsequently, Fresno State scored late on a major play, and Muti placed himself directly on the sidelines.
“Here’s Muti, jumping up and down in a boot, waving a towel and going crazy,” said Grubb. This was his second torn Achilles in three years, and most guys like him would be crying in the locker room. That’s why I respected him as a competitor.
“I always found it impressive how quickly his lower body strength came back after these injuries. Suddenly he squatted 600 pounds. I was amazed. “
When Muti throws off the injury-prone label with an elongated stretch of healthy attacking lines, the Broncos count on its potential as stealing this NFL concept class. He plans to initially compete for a reserve roster spot, where the Broncos are currently starting left guard Dalton Risner and right guard Graham Glasgow.
Broncos general manager John Elway told reporters in April that medical staff were not concerned about Muti’s ruptured Achilles, as repaired tendons are often stronger, and said Lisfranc’s recovery at Muti was on track.
“We felt we would take a small risk with medical care,” said Elway. “But we really felt at the top of the sixth round, we got tremendous value and it was worth the risk to take a chance on him.”
Muti’s NFL success would be shared by the large Polynesian family from which he grew up in Hawaii. Leilehua High School has not seen any of its football players rise to the NFL since the early 2000s, said Leilehua athletic director Nolan Tokuda.
Muti strives to change that.
“To give Netane that chance, he represents our community,” said Tokuda. “We are absolutely proud of him.”