Jason Hatcher, 33, will be appearing in the playoffs for the first time in six seasons next week. It's been an emotional journey for him during that time.
As the game clock sunk under the one-minute mark of what was about to confirm the Washington Redskins' NFC East-clinching victory over the Philadelphia Eagles last Saturday evening, Jason Hatcher took a seat on the bench.
With his teammates swirling around him, cheering and dancing, Hatcher looked down before starting to cry.
Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan would come give him a hug before defensive line coach Robb Akey grabbed him by the side and thanked him for all of his hard work this season.
Why was the 10-year veteran so emotional in a moment of joy?
"This is my [fourth] time," Hatcher, 33, said of making the playoffs. "They don't come around very often. I think the last time was five, six years ago I was in the playoffs, so just got to take advantage of it when you got an opportunity like this and just got to seize the moment. Take it one day at a time, you know. We've just got to work on getting guys fresh this week and get ready and not go out there and lay an egg, go out there and keep continuing to play like we've been playing; I think we'll be ok."
The last time Hatcher was in the playoffs, the Grambing State product was a member of the Dallas Cowboys.
In 2009, Dallas won the NFC East with an 11-5 record. After defeating the Philadelphia Eagles 34-14 in the Wild Card Round, the Cowboys were routed in the Divisional Round, 34-3.
Since then, Hatcher has ended each season the same: sitting at home while other teams battled it out for the chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
But on a team with an entire roster that considers him one of their leaders, Hatcher has the chance to go the furthest he ever has in the playoffs.
And with a team that media members and pundits wrote off before a single game was played, that made winning the NFC East that much more satisfying for Hatcher.
"When I look back on all, you know, the scrutiny we got, the ups and downs, the inconsistency of this football team now, and to growing into our own and creating our own identity as a team," Hatcher said of being emotional. "That's the core guys in this locker room is something special because at the end of the day, the players we done this, we done this. The coaches put it on us to do it and us guys in this locker room, us guys at this point we just have got to continue to build and play hard for each other and love one another and know what's at stake. When we step on that field, man, just put it all out there like we've been doing every Sunday."
A countdown of the Top 10 images of Redskins defensive end Jason Hatcher during the 2014 season.
Even during the offseason when Hatcher wasn't required to be at Redskins Park for voluntary workouts, he was at the facility leading by example.
When the team would be doing wind sprints in 90-plus-degree weather in Richmond, Va., during training camp, he was there.
"He comes in and has been through the fire as far as playing experience goes, brings a wealth of experience to the football team, to the defensive line, to the whole defense, to the whole team in general," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. "Very energetic, very passionate about the game and that rubs off on everybody. To have him healthy is going to be very, very important. And to reward him and his hard work, coming in in the offseason and preparing and getting his body ready, flying out to Denver to get what he needs to get done to try and get ready for our game and playing his butt off is great for the younger guys to see how hard he works and the work that he puts in to get himself ready for every Sunday."
Being a player who uses every potential method possible to be the best player he can be is something that was taught to Hatcher.
He hopes he's having the same impact on a young roster now.
"I had Greg Ellis, Kenyon Coleman, Jason Ferguson, guys like that that I kind of watched and I looked up to and they pulled me to the side and took me places with them," Hatcher said. "Kenyon took me to hot yoga, Greg showed me to do dry needling- get massages stuff like that, Ferguson just told me to stay in the weight room. All those guys really helped me to still be here and to be able to take care of my body and taught me a lot. For me, I give back. So they gave it to me, so I'm here. I'm not here only to be a football player, I think I'm here more importantly to instill in these young guys how to be a pro. So when I'm gone, the tradition of the right way to do things just keep going on and hopefully we'll create a winning environment around here for years to come."