With Trent Williams suspended for the next four games, Ty Nsekhe is ready to take over at left tackle, an opportunity he's patiently waited for.
Offensive lineman Ty Nsekhe will be the first to tell you that he's experienced his fair share of peaks and valleys in his football career since being undrafted out of Texas State in 2009.
After six years of bouncing around from city to city – making pit stops in two different Arena football leagues and the Canadian Football League – Nsekhe latched onto the Washington Redskins in 2015, and for the first time in his career has enjoyed some stability. For the next month, he will also have a starting opportunity.
Check out these photos of the Redskins' offense preparing for their Week 10 game against the Minnesota Vikings Monday, Nov. 7, 2016, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.
With Trent Williams suspended for the next four games, Nsekhe will slide in at left tackle, a position the 6-foot-8, 325 pounder feels most comfortable playing, as the team adapts to losing its captain and All-Pro on the left side of the offensive line.
"It's going to have an effect on our football team," head coach Jay Gruden said of Williams' absence. "But, like I said, I have faith in Ty and I have faith that in four weeks Trent will be back ready to go."
"I approach it like I approach every week, with full confidence in my abilities, taking practice like a time to perfect my craft," Nsekhe said. "Nothing changes for me, it's just the opportunity now. I'm going to take full advantage of the opportunity."
Nsekhe said he's texted with Williams since hearing of his teammate's suspension, gathering some more advice that he has accrued since joining the team and working alongside Williams throughout last year.
The Texas State product started in two games last season when Williams was injured and has proven extremely reliable, especially as he's developed over the last several months, enough for general manager Scot McCloughan to claim that Nsekhe would likely be a starting offensive lineman on many other NFL teams right now.
"I appreciate Scot [McCloughan] for the opportunity that he's given me since I've been here," Nsekhe said. "That's all I really wanted since I've had the opportunity to become an NFL player. I just wanted somebody to believe in me and give me a chance. I appreciate that."
The opportunity is something Nsekhe always believed he would receive, even at the bleakest of times.
After playing in the AF2 -- an indoor developmental league -- with the Corpus Christi Sharks in 2009, Nsekhe joined the Arena Football League in Dallas. He had already helped start a private security company at the time in case football didn't pan out and needed some financial convincing to keep playing – to make all the body banging worth it.
The San Antonio Talons offered him an amenable contract in 2012, and a few months after playing there he was signed by the Indianapolis Colts. That began another carousel at the NFL level, making stops in St. Louis, New Orleans and Montreal, with the CFL Alouettes, near the end of 2014 before getting a call from Washington.
"I always knew in the back of my mind that I was destined to be here, so something just stayed with me, I don't know," Nsekhe said. "I can't really tell you what it was, I just knew it was going to be here."
He leaned on a close-knit group of family and friends, who had stuck with him during the difficult times in his life even before his football journey. Playing in the Arena league became a respite from some of his life's rockier circumstances. The pay he said -- $150 per week before taxes – made him play the game out of love.
The competition there wasn't drastically different. Many players had the same dreams as Nsekhe. But he noticed a difference in the coaching and preparation compared to higher levels of football. He, like many players, were running on hope.
"I knew where I wanted to be," Nsekhe said. "I just go out there and play as hard as I can and someone will notice."
The Redskins did notice, eventually, and have already benefited. During the team's third game against the New York Giants this year, left guard Shawn Lauvao had to exit the game with injury, shifting Williams to left guard and Nsekhe to left tackle, where he stayed for the remainder of the team's come from behind victory.
"You got to seize an opportunity when it's given to you, and I know Ty has already done it, and he's going to keep doing it," center Spencer Long said. "If Vinston Painter plays, then he will too. It just goes back to [offensive line coach Bill] Callahan's training and he always makes sure everyone is ready to the best of their ability. So it's just really about seizing that opportunity when you get the chance. I think everyone has the right mindset in this room that when the opportunity presents itself. We have a lot of hard workers."
This week, Nsekhe will balance some excitement – realizing the prospects of potentially starting four of the season's biggest games – with the experience and perspective that has defined his career. After all, Nsekhe is used to being ready. He's waited his whole life.
"I have had a little practice at it now, so I kind of got it down," Nsekhe said. "I'm motivated and prepared like I'm going to play today, so when my number is called, I'm ready to go."