AP: Seventh-round pick Broughton is quite a catch
By JOSEPH WHITE / Associated Press
Earnest Byner was responsible for finding Nemo.
The Washington Redskins running backs coach tracked him down early this year, at a school that had gone 10 years without having a player taken in the NFL draft. Byner went to see a running back named Nehemiah Broughton work out at The Citadel, and any thoughts about a fish movie were quickly supplanted by an unexpected flashback.
"People think it's crazy — I'm not going to compare him to this guy — but what I felt with him at that workout was similar to something I felt with Jamal when I was with Baltimore," Byner said. "When he ran past me, the thought of Jamal came to me, just like that."
A player from The Citadel? Similar to Jamal Lewis? That's a hard sell, but Byner reported his findings and made his case to the scouts and coaching staff. On draft day, with their last pick, the Redskins took Byner's advice and chose Broughton in the seventh round with the 222nd overall pick.
That was big news in South Carolina. The last Citadel player to be drafted was Travis Jervey, taken in the fifth round by Green Bay in 1995. A pair of undrafted former Bulldogs — tackles Cliff Washburn and Lew Dawson — are trying to make NFL rosters this year, but Broughton could very well be the school's only NFL representative this season.
"I always believed it could happen," Broughton said. "But I also know the chances were very slim when you're coming from The Citadel and making it this far."
Broughton got his nickname as a freshman in college, long before anyone had heard of the movie "Finding Nemo." He was originally called "Nemo-sapien" because one of his teammates thought Broughton was a different breed of player.
With the Redskins, he's proven to be quite a catch. Byner figured the 5-foot-11, 255-pound back could be a possible solution to the team's short-yardage woes of a year ago. Featured back Clinton Portis is a smaller, slashing-type runner and not the best option when it's time to pound out third-and-inches.
But Broughton has been an unmistakable presence playing with the second unit during three weeks of training camp and the first two exhibition games. He has not only lowered his shoulder to pop would-be tacklers, he has unexpectedly been effective as a receiver, catching five passes for 45 yards in Friday night's loss to Cincinnati. His only major miscue was a fumble in the fourth quarter, but by then he had built up plenty of goodwill among the coaching staff.
"He's a little bit quicker than what you think, a little bit faster, and his feet a little bit better, and he's strong," Byner said. "Nemo's smart. He's football smart, but he's also intelligent. What he's showing me he can do is coach himself."
Broughton's college options were limited because he didn't blossom as a high school player until his senior year in North Charleston, S.C. However, the military atmosphere of The Citadel instilled a discipline that has helped him excel in his first NFL training camp.
"Two weeks in a row, he's been pretty impressive," coach Joe Gibbs said.
Broughton is pushing fourth-year back Rock Cartwright for playing time if not a roster spot. So far, Broughton appears to have the edge.
"I won't say I'm in the comfort zone," Broughton said. "I won't be in the comfort zone until the final cuts, and I know I'm on the roster."
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