On January 10, 2010, Mike Shanahan was hired to be the new head coach for the Washington Redskins. One of his first official moves was signing several players to future’s contracts, including little known offensive guard Kory Lichtensteiger, a former Shanahan draftee in Denver.
Lichtensteiger had taken the long road to Washington (via Denver and Minnesota), and looked to be a player looking for his last, best chance. After a rookie season in which he appeared in 16 games for Shanahan’s Broncos, Lichtensteiger didn’t appear in a game in 2009.
Reunited with Shanahan in Washington in 2010, Lichtensteiger was installed as the starting left guard in Week 3, where he started the final 14 games.
After battling back from a traumatic knee injury early, Lichtensteiger has been tendered a contract for next season, and appears to be an example of a ‘diamond in the rough’ type of player.
It turns out that Kory has been considered “a hidden gem” since high school, when he was a hometown hero in rural Ohio:
Kory grew up in Convoy, Ohio, home to about 1,000 people. At local Crestview High School, the football program had been cancelled in 1982, before Kory was born. It wasn’t until 1999 that the varsity program was re-launched, and it wasn’t until 2002 that they had their first Division 1 recruit in Lichtensteiger.
Leading up to the 2002 season, Kirk Larrabee wrote a story for Scouts.com about how a humble kid like Kory was the pride of a small town, and the hope for future generations of football players.
Crestview’s head coach Chad Williams offered this description of young No. 78:
“Kory is an incredible athlete for a guy 6’4” 285 pounds…If (Division I programs) aren’t willing to take a chance on him, (they) will be missing out on that athletic ability.”
“As a player, Kory is a great leader with a great deal of intensity…He loves the game and wants to succeed on every play. His desire to be the best player on the field makes him very hard to stop defensively and gives a great deal of confidence offensively. He very often makes blocks downfield and sets up other blocks so well because of his quick feet.”
Not surprisingly, those quick feet make him very appealing in the Shanahan zone-blocking system, which favors athleticism over girth. Back in his letterman jacket days, however, he was a dominant tackle in the spread offense, and hadn’t allowed a sack in two years.
Kory’s success was buoyed by his tremendous strength at a young age, as he was reportedly able to bench 325 pounds and squat 465. The young ‘Steiger also ran like a very large gazelle, with a 5.15 40-yard dash.
And in addition to being a Friday Night star, Kory was scouring the countryside for future Crestview Knights recruits. He even recruited at the local kindergartens:
“It is really cool when little kids come up to me and say they know me and they know my number…It is important because I think I need to be a positive role model.”
“I even visited the kindergarten class and talked to them about playing football.”
“Being a fairly large part of a small school has been a very cool experience…It makes me work as hard as I can because I know that the other players and fans are counting on me.”
Interestingly, Kory’s development as a quality run-blocking lineman began after 2002, when he named it as his biggest area of need.
“I would definitely say my strength is pass blocking…We have run this style of game for the three years I’ve played varsity for Crestview.”
“I don’t want to say that my run blocking is my weakness but I do want to bring it up to the level that I would be happy with.”
In Kory’s 19 games as a starter for the Redskins, he’s blocked for 100-yard team rushing performances nine times. On Ryan Torain’s 20-yard touchdown rush against the Rams last season, it was Lichtesteiger’s pancake that opened the hole for Torain to run:
It’s good to know that success hasn’t changed a guy like Lichtensteiger–only improved his style of play. He’s still one of the good guys in the game, and has developed into the type of professional football player that should make the folks from Convoy to D.C. proud.
With a full, healthy season in Washington, he could prove to be one of the key pieces to Redskins success down the road.
Tags: Kory Lichtensteiger, mike shanahan, offensive guard, washington redskins
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