The contract offer this past week from the Buffalo Bills was something special for Ty Nsekhe. It was the first time Nsekhe felt all his hard work over the past eight years literally paid off.
"When I got the call saying that Buffalo was willing to pay for my services that was an amazing feeling. I had to sit down," Nsekhe said. "It was a little overwhelming because it's been a long road and a lot of work. A lot of sweat equity went into this dream."
Nsekhe's NFL football dream began with AF2 and Arena League teams like the Corpus Christi Sharks, the Dallas Vigilantes and Philadelphia Soul. Toiling in the indoor leagues for three seasons put Nsekhe's vast physical talent on display for enough NFL scouts to earn a workout with the Miami Dolphins.
"It was after the 2010 season and I had a workout with the Dolphins and they were talking about bringing me in on a futures contract," Nsekhe said.
Unfortunately for Nsekhe, his timing could not have been worse. An NFL lockout was looming and teams were hesitant to add players to their offseason roster.
Sure enough the lockout went into effect a short time later and all hope of landing on an NFL roster at that time was lost.
Nsekhe returned to the Arena League, playing that spring and summer for the Soul and owner Ron Jaworski. The former Eagles quarterback made his old NFL team aware of Nsekhe's talents as the season wore on.
"All the things I was told was I would get a chance with the Eagles once the lockout was over," Nsekhe said. "But that never came to fruition because of the lockout."
Nsekhe was only 25-years old, but he openly wondered if he should end the journey.
"I thought maybe my window to the NFL was closed," he said. "The reason I was playing Arena football was to get to the league, so I thought maybe I should do something else. 2011 is when I thought about just hanging it up."
Then the phone rang with an offer he wasn't anticipating.
"I got a call from one of the Arena League GMs and they gave me the chance to make a large sum of money playing Arena ball, so I stuck with it," said Nsekhe.
The San Antonio Talons were the team that coaxed Nsekhe to continue his playing career in the Arena League. He played for them in 2012 season and it proved to be a wise decision.
The Indianapolis Colts signed him in August as a free agent after the 2012 Arena season came to a close. He didn't make the club's 53-man roster, but was picked up in early September by the St. Louis Rams. He spent three weeks on the active roster before being released and signed to the Rams practice squad.
Nsekhe worked to get a handle on the team's playbook and the techniques he was tasked with perfecting. He was brought back by the Rams in 2013, but didn't make the roster the following August. That experience however, convinced him of one thing.
"My second-year with the Rams I knew I could play in the league. I just needed time," he said. "At that time I had an ankle injury and they decided to release me early, and after that I bounced around from team to team and never had a chance to digest the playbook and get comfortable anywhere."
The lineman went from the New Orleans Saints to the CFL's Montreal Alouettes to the Washington Redskins. The Washington staff saw potential and chose to give Nsekhe some time to assimilate.
"Washington was the first team that took the time to be patient with me and let me get used to the terminology and the playbook," he said. "And you see what happened, I flourished."
Though Nsekhe was the swing tackle behind starters Trent Williams and Morgan Moses, when pressed into action he excelled against some of the better pass rushers in football, including Houston DE Jadeveon Clowney.
"Just being around Trent (Williams) day to day, he's a future Hall of Famer," said Nsekhe. "Just seeing how he prepared and I took some of what makes him successful and added it to my game. I felt like every week I line up it's my job to lock the man up across from me. So I just go out there and do my job. That's what you see on tape."
"Ty is a guy who has persevered and wasn't this big draft pick or anything. He's played well," said GM Brandon Beane. "He's played on several teams. What I saw with him when you turn the tape on is a guy who played both tackles and both guards as well. He has position flex. He's a big man to get around and he can move. He's got pretty good feet. I like the edge. You see a little bit of nasty to him. That's what was attractive with his game."
The edge in Nsekhe's game isn't surprising. He's been scratching and clawing for eight years. Now with his first opportunity to compete for a starting job, the massive tackle is eager to get started in Buffalo.
"It was almost overwhelming at first, and I had to take it all in," he said. "God is good. I'm excited. I'm really excited for the opportunity."
Click through to see photos of Buffalo's 2019 free agents in Bills gear on their first day at One Bills Drive.