Western Michigan OL Luke Juriga Could be a Homegrown Option for Broncos in the Draft

Luke Patterson

Jim Juriga started at left guard for the Denver Broncos against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIV. Denver's 55-10 loss was the third championship loss for both Juriga and teammate John’s Elway.

Elway would persevere and later earn back-back titles with the Broncos in the late 90s. Juriga altered career paths, becoming a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at Colorado State University. Although Juriga never hoisted the Lombardi Trophy himself, he played a total 44 games for the Broncos after being drafted in the fourth round of the ’86 NFL Draft.

Now Jim's youngest son, Luke will enter the 2020 draft in late April. Luke Juriga is a 6-foot-4, 298-pound center from Western Michigan University. He’s a three-time All Mid-American Conference choice selection and four-time Academic All-MAC honoree. 

Juriga was a team captain and started all 52 career games of his collegiate career. Before being asked to play center last spring, he started his first three seasons at right guard for WMU.

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Impressive Showing on Pre-Draft Trail

Juriga was invited to the 2020 East-West Shrine Bowl, and I observed him participate in scrimmages and position drills. After landing in Tampa, I rushed to the first day of practice and immediately noticed that Juriga's performance was exciting NFL scouts in the pit. 

'The Pit’ matches the offensive line against the defensive line in drills, which include pass protection one-on-ones and various run blocking drills. In pass protection, Juriga revealed significant striking power with his initial inside punch to the defender’s chest. 

In the run game, he showed effective hand placement and pad level for a player with his height. Overall it was evident that Juriga consistently implements a low center of gravity to maintain his balance when engaging defenders.

At the East-West Shrine practice, Broncos scouts studied Juriga as did Raiders' GM Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden. By the end of the week, NFL personnel left Tampa impressed with Juriga’s versatility and coachability.

I caught up with Juriga after practice and asked him what his preference was between guard and center. 

“Honestly, I feel comfortable at either," Juriga told me. "I played the majority of my career at guard, but then our team needed me to play center.”

When asked where he’s training and preparing for the NFL Draft, Juriga replied, “Landow Performance in Denver, Colorado. After speaking with my agent, we felt Landow Performance was the best fit for me as an offensive lineman, because of their reputation.”

Landow Performance owner Loren Landow also happens to be the Broncos' Strength and Conditioning Coach. Landow has an elite track record working with world-class athletes and NFL stars. 

Broncos players that have trained with Landow include Von Miller, Derek Wolfe, Peyton Manning, Ed McCaffrey and Steve Atwater. Landow joined the Broncos two seasons ago. NFL rules strictly prohibit team coaches and personnel from training draft-eligible players. This allows the elite training staff of Landow Performance to offer consultation and training for NFL prospects.

A couple of weeks back, Juriga participated in a special Pro Day workout at Elk Ridge Park in Castle Pines, CO, which was directed by trainers from Landow Performance. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, universities have canceled pro days, and NFL teams are prohibited from hosting pre-draft visits.

Broncos Still Haven't Solved Center Position

While the Broncos acquired free-agent OL Graham Glasgow, the team is still in the market for a center to replace Connor McGovern who signed with the New York Jets. Juriga is projected to be a mid-to-late-round draft pick and his versatility could make him a steal for Elway. 

Because his father is Bronco Alumni, Juriga would already have some familiarity with the organization and Elway. Under the expertise of venerated O-line Coach Mike Munchak, grabbing Juriga in the middle rounds could potentially solve the mystery at center for the Broncos. 

Follow Luke on Twitter @LukePattersonLP and @MileHighHuddle.

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