Not too long ago, Ty Nsekhe was making $150 a week playing Arena Football and running on hope.
Now he’s the starting left tackle for the Washington Redskins – an opportunity afforded him after Pro Bowler Trent Williams’ suspension and years of patience. Nsekhe has four games to prove what he has always believed and tried to show during every tryout: he belongs in the NFL.
”I always knew in the back of my mind I was destined to be here, so something just stayed with me,” Nsekhe said this week. ”I can’t really tell you what it was, but I just knew I was going to be here. I’m here.”
Nsekhe’s travels took him from Texas State to Tarleton State, a Division II school, and then to AF2, the Arena Football League’s developmental program. At 6-foot-8, Nsekhe’s size garnered NFL attention, and he said Miami was about to sign him in 2011 when the lockout began.
If the AFL’s San Antonio Talons hadn’t called in 2012, Nsekhe was content to continue operating his private security business. Reluctant to go back to banging up his body for $150 a week – with a $50 bonus for a win – he needed the Talons to match his salary.
When they did, he was back in the game.
”I went down there, and the rest is history,” Nsekhe said.
Nsekhe had brief stays with the Indianapolis Colts, St. Louis Rams, New Orleans Saints and the Redskins, and he bounced to the Canadian Football League and back to the Arena League.
After a career of catch and release, he signed with Washington in May 2015 at 29 and started two games in place of Williams last season.
”All I really wanted was to have the opportunity to become an NFL player,” he said. ”I just wanted somebody to believe in me and give me a chance, and I appreciate that.”
That opportunity came from coach Jay Gruden and the Redskins, who believed Nsekhe had the size to play left tackle in the NFL but was very raw.
Experienced offensive line coach Bill Callahan helped him develop his technique, with Williams and right tackle Morgan Moses also lending a hand in the learning process.
”Luckily, we had the opportunity to keep him here and let him develop in a system and learn the system, the calls, and just watch him progressively get better and better,” Gruden said. ”And he’s been a joy to watch, quite frankly.”
Right now Nsekhe isn’t thinking about where he would be if football didn’t work out – though he often does. Right now, he’s focused on starting for the Redskins.
”Just everything falling into place,” he said. ”I don’t know. Sometimes things happen for a reason, and you can’t explain them sometimes.”
Williams’ suspension, imposed last week for violations of the NFL’s substance abuse policy, allows Nsekhe to show what he can do for the Redskins – and, as a restricted free agent once the season ends, perhaps for other teams looking for a capable tackle.
Washington general manager Scot McCloughan has said Nsekhe can be a starter, and Nsekhe will have a chance to show that potential beginning with a game against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
Gruden said little will change with the Redskins’ offense because he has faith in Nsekhe’s ability to fill in for Williams.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins isn’t worried, either, knowing Nsekhe will be protecting his blind side.
”Mentally, he really understands it and knows where to be and who to get on each protection and each play in the run game,” Cousins said. ”He’s got a big frame and it really helps to have that size, and he’s worked really hard.
”It hasn’t been an easy path, but so many of these guys in an NFL locker room, they wouldn’t be here if they had given up at the first sign of adversity. Ty’s a great example of someone who just kept pushing and kept going, and now, he’s in a great position to be successful.”
NOTES: Gruden said an MRI on WR DeSean Jackson’s left shoulder showed rotator cuff ”issues.” Jackson missed practice for the second consecutive day, and his status for the Vikings game is uncertain. … Gruden confirmed undrafted rookie Robert Kelley remains the starting running back and was noncommittal about the role of former No. 1 Matt Jones. … Moses (sprained left ankle) and S Will Blackmon (broken left thumb) were limited participants in practice Thursday.
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