By Max Kurtzman
Player Name: Knowshon Moreno, 27
Hometown: Belford, New Jersey
Experience: 4 years
Knowshon Moreno is a fighter. At least, he should be known as one now.
Moreno is the former first round running back selected No. 12 overall in the 2009 draft by Denver, a man that has never even sniffed the potential he had coming out of the University of Georgia. At Georgia, he was phenomenal. In his redshirt freshman season, he ran for over 1,300 yards with 14 touchdowns, being named the Sporting News Freshman Offensive Player of the Year. The next year he was even better, gaining 1,400 yards and 16 scores on the ground, while adding nearly 400 yards and two scores receiving as well. He seemed to be the total package; Moreno had speed and quickness, was a hard runner, could catch passes and even block a little.
At the professional level, it’s been the polar opposite as he’s regressed steadily, year after year. Moreno’s rookie season was by far his best in the NFL, rushing for 947 yards and seven touchdowns. In subsequent seasons, those numbers have dropped to 779 and five in 2010, to 179 and 0 last season. Those shockingly dreadful career-lows in 2011 were partially due to Willis McGahee stealing his starting spot because of great performances in the preseason, and partly because Moreno tore his ACL in mid-November, forcing him to miss nine games.
For a man expected to start from Day One in Denver, everything had come crashing down. Not only did he lose his starting job to a much older player, but he was going through the second major knee injury of his life. Instead of calling it quits, Moreno battled back, he pushed himself and prepared for the 2012 season and made an impression during the preseason. His football future as a Broncos player was in question, but he played well enough to earn a spot on the team’s 53-man roster.
Still, Moreno remained buried on the depth chart, with McGahee the starter, rookie Ronnie Hillman at No. 2, fourth-year backup Lance Ball at No. 3 and Knowshon behind them all. Most weeks he didn’t even dress, seen supporting his teammates from the sideline in street clothes, but he didn’t give up.
He kept working hard in practice, on the scout team, giving the first string Denver defense a solid back to prepare with. And once McGahee went down with a torn MCL, Moreno was called on to play a key role. He stepped up and carried the load for the Broncos’ rushing attack, with 20 rushes for a team-leading 85 yards. What got him going early was Peyton Manning’s conscious effort to get him the ball early and often, even through the passing game. He caught four passes on the day for 26 yards as well, helping in any way he could Sunday. The Broncos barely squeaked out a win in Kansas City, and there’s no doubt Moreno played a vital role in the offense.
“I thought he had a very good performance … how we expected,” head coach John Fox told media Monday. And while Fox said the Broncos will continue to be a team with running back by committee, Moreno should get the start again this week against Tampa Bay.
Certainly, he’ll be important as the season continues to grind forward, and it looks like Moreno is ready to do whatever the Broncos need.
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Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Find more of Rich’s Denver Broncos pieces on Examiner.com.