In his second NFL season, defensive lineman Barry Cofield experienced the moment every player dreams of – he won a Super Bowl. His team, against the odds, was able to fight their way through the playoffs and win on the biggest stage of all. It was an amazing experience for him.
Unfortunately for Washington Redskins fans, Cofield earned his Super Bowl ring with the New York Giants.
Once he was acquired by head coach Mike Shanahan last year though, Cofield immediately began dreaming of what it would be like to win it all for a championship-hungry city like Washington.
"I can only imagine with how starved the fans are around here, the type of reception we'd get if we were able to pull it off here," Cofield said. "It would be magical."
Growing up in Cleveland Heights, Ohio as a fan of the Cleveland Browns, Cavaliers and Indians, Cofield understands what it's like to agonize over a franchise's losses and to desperately want your team to win. In fact, he relishes those fan expectations.
"You want that expectation; that getting by isn't good enough," said Cofield. "You want to be a championship contender and that's what the fans want and expect. That's what they cheer for and that's what you want to give them."
Cofield has always been athletically gifted, if perhaps a little too gifted for his age. Being bigger than most other kids, he couldn't begin his football career until sixth grade because he exceeded the maximum weight limit imposed on kids in the local rec football league.
By high school, he lettered in four sports in high school – football, baseball, basketball and track and field.
Cofield bounced around various positions in his youth. He played everything from tight end to linebacker to running back and fullback. It wasn't until his senior year in high school that his coach moved him from outside linebacker to the defensive line.
He had a number of prestigious football programs recruiting him his senior year, but for Cofield it was about more than the experience on the gridiron.
"Grades were always a big deal in my family too, which is how I ended up picking Northwestern," Cofield said.
Northwestern head coach Randy Walker was also from Ohio, which helped in the recruiting process. It was that Ohio connection and what the school could offer academically that ultimately sold Cofield on the school.
"It was the combination of Big 10 football with an Ivy League-type degree. I just felt like that was an opportunity that I couldn't pass up," said Cofield.
At Northwestern, Cofield pursued a communications degree with a sociology concentration. He wasn't sure exactly what he wanted to do for a living, but knew he didn't want to work in a cubicle. He was particularly interested in working with children.
It wasn't until his junior year of college that he actually believed he had a shot of making it to the NFL.
"Luis Castillo was a year older than me, and he was my roommate on road trips," Cofield explained. "Just hearing him go through it and end up getting drafted the year before my senior year; it wasn't until then I thought, 'I play next to this guy. He's good enough to go in the first round.'
"So I felt like I'm good enough to at least play."
Cofield remembers his NFL pre-draft experience as "nerve wracking." The NFL Scouting Combine was particularly frustrating, as he watched players' stock rise and fall on a daily basis.
"One day they like you, one day they hate you," said Cofield.
The defensive lineman was realistic about his prospects in the draft. Cofield thought he might go as high as the third round, but believed it was just as likely that he wouldn't get drafted at all.
He didn't plan a big, flashy party to celebrate. Instead, he watched the draft quietly at home with his family—at least part of the draft.
When he was finally selected in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL Draft, Cofield wasn't actually following the proceedings on television.
"I was watching the movie Saving Silverman at the time they called my name," he said.
Forgoing a flashy draft day celebration for a simple gathering at home befits Cofield's blue-collar work ethic. A down-to-earth guy who embraces hard work, his determination has gotten him pretty far in his football career.
"Playing football is something I feel I always have to work for, always have to prove myself," he said. "I definitely consider it a blessing.
"It wasn't my birthright. It's something I had to work for every single day."
His talent and work ethic attracted the attention of the Redskins' front office last offseason, who targeted Cofield as a 3-4 nose tackle, despite having never played there in the pros.
Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan saw Cofield as a dedicated playmaker and leader who could help rally the defense in Washington.
"I think everybody knows Barry, with his background with the Giants, what type of leader he was," said Shanahan. "As you could see it when you went against his football team, exactly what he brought to their organization. Once he came in here, you could see what type of worker he was and what type of leader he was."
Shanahan continued: "Barry is a guy that is very respected on this football team. When you have guys that work that hard and guys that make plays you're hoping that they develop as one of your team leaders and he will be one of those guys in the future."
Shanahan also talked about Cofield being a "quiet guy." Behind the scenes though, his teammates say he's a very funny guy as well.
According to defensive end Stephen Bowen, who came to Washington in the same free agent class, "He looks like a serious guy, but he's very funny. He keeps things loose."
Fans can see a bit of the lighter side of Cofield in his signature on-field celebration. After getting a big sack, Cofield likes to pantomime electrocuting himself with a taser. It was something he did in New York and something fans were excited to see him break out in Washington.
In fact, his teammates – and their kids – were excited to see its Washington debut against the Atlanta Falcons.
"Leonard Hankerson had video of his son doing the taser dance," said Cofield. "He was doing it all night after the game."
Not that it's all fun and games out on the field. Being down in the trenches playing nose tackle can be brutal.
"It's like bumper cars with no seatbelt and no helmet," Cofield said with a smirk. "Bumper cars, but it's three-on-one--that's nose tackle."
But ss grueling as it can be though, doesn't see himself stepping away from football anytime soon.
"I feel like as long as I have the gift and ability to do it, I'd feel bad walking away," said Cofield. "There's so many people who would love to get in my position. So I'm going to do it as long as my body allows me or until Coach Shanahan tells me I'm not good enough anymore."
Besides, he has his sights set on winning a Super Bowl ring here in Washington, a goal that Cofield believes isn't that far out of reach.
"With the competitiveness in the league right now and the parity, I don't think we're far at all. It's just a play here and a play there, we figure out how to make those plays down the stretch instead of giving them up and I think we're right in the mix with everyone else," said Cofield.
Having already experience the elation of winning it all with the Giants, Cofield can picture just how sweet it will be when it finally happens again for the Redskins.
"It will be great," said Cofield. "I've been there before, so I know how sweet it is and I'd love to celebrate it with these fans and these players and this organization."
Hopefully, that victory celebration includes at least one celebratory taser dance.