ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Denver Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett has been looking for ways to keep his team engaged as the playbook settles during his first season on the job.
Even if he has to look in his children’s schoolbags.
This offseason, Hackett implemented almost daily use of Kahoot’s Quick Tests which suddenly became another competition for players.
“There’s a lot of new stuff, including testing,” said guard Dalton Risner. “I didn’t expect it; we already had tests to see how we were doing, what we knew, but not like these.”
Kahoot tests – as many parents will tell you – are online multiple-choice tests at home with the aim of making learning “fun, engaging and impactful”. That means they often include topics like Disney characters, NASA, and fire safety, as well as things like “Exploring by the seat of your pants.” But the format can be adapted for specific groups.
Among them is a group of professional soccer players from suburban Denver who are recording scores on tests tailored to each position group or offense or defense as a whole.
“A lot of your kids do them in school,” Hackett said. “That’s where I found it. My kids were doing it at school. … It’s set up like a bar quiz, but it’s your own personalized game, so it’s timed. guys get competitive with it.”
Sophomore center Lloyd Cushenberry III has consistently passed the quick tests — “Cush just dominates,” Hackett said. They mostly include unlabeled diagrams of parts that need to be identified, but Hackett, an avid Star Wars fan, will ask about his favorite movies or occasionally decade-old photos of some of the team’s current coaches, the challenge being to identify the coaches.
Each question has multiple choices for the answer, and everything is timed.
“It’s cool, it’s something we’ve never had before,” receiver Tim Patrick said.
“I don’t like funny ones,” laughed Risner. “I want it to be football only. It’s fun; I think we all sort of think, ‘Hey, we might have a Kahoot today, be ready’, but I don’t think anyone is just studying to handle the Kahoots. … You better study long before that, but Cush, he’s fast, man.”
For Cushenberry, it’s all part of a much more serious outcome. Yes, he has started every game in each of his first two seasons since being selected in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft out of LSU.
He spent off-season practices getting most of the shots with starters, but there were times during the 2021 season when opposing defensive coaches thought Cushenberry could be overpowered at the point of attack in the game of race. He hasn’t always maintained his footwork or his positioning as part of a team-wide fight for pass protection.
Cushenberry also saw second-year guard Quinn Meinerz work at center in offseason practices, and the Broncos used a fifth-round pick in the April draft to select Washington center Luke Wattenberg. So Kahoot’s tests might be a nice and somewhat light change of pace, but Cushenberry said he’s also looking to take advantage of that opportunity, even if it means extra study time.
“Every night, just [looking at] flash cards and studying and being on point,” Cushenberry said. “As a center, a lot of people expect the center to know everything. You must be smart. You don’t get a pat on the back for being smart as a center. You’re supposed to do this.”
Most new coaches come in with different ideas, signs on the wall or renovations to a room or two. The high-energy Hackett is no different in that regard and is enjoying some goodwill with the team’s first game in three months.
But Broncos players have repeatedly said they love his attempts at new and unexpected things.
“These guys are young, man,” Risner said of the new staff. “It’s not just the Kahoot tests or the shooting baskets between breaks. It’s the way you talk, it’s the way you enter this building. These guys are hungry, it’s their first cut [as a staff] …these guys bring the juice every day.”