Five years ago, Darrel Young fought for a spot on the Washington Redskins' active roster as a linebacker, but was ultimately stashed away on the practice squad for a few weeks before being cut.
Now, entering the 2014 season, Young – the team's starting fullback for a fourth straight season -- is the senior most member of the Redskins' backfield.
"It's pretty cool," Young said of his journey. "You look at some of the mistakes that we all make, some of things that they did, some of things that the younger teammates did that I've done and continue to still do them, but I help them now in a sense where they respect my voice because I've played some games in this league."
While not necessarily getting as much media attention as some of his others teammates, Young is considered by his teammates and coaches to be one of the most important players on the offense.
First-year head coach Jay Gruden rarely used a fullback during his time as offensive coordinator of the Cincinatti Bengals partially because he didn't have a player capable of what Young does on the field.
"I didn't have Darrel Young in Cincinnati – if I had him, I would have used him," Gruden said during training camp. "So he's a very good fullback. He's very versatile, he can run, he can catch, so we're excited about having him…DY will be a major part of this offense."
Young appreciated the support from Gruden and hopes to showcase his versatility.
"It was pretty cool because I don't think I've had so many text messages with positive feedback at one time," he said. "It's pretty cool to know that the head coach thinks he sees something in me, and hopefully I keep building on that."
In each of the last two seasons, Young has been a lead blocker for an offense that has rushed for more than 2,000 yards. He also logged three rushing touchdowns of his own last season vs. San Diego and a 62-yard receiving touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Against the Houston Texans in the 2014 regular season opener, he scored the Redskins' first touchdown of the season by overpowering the Texan defensive line at the goal line.
Although getting into the end zone is always nice, Young said he takes the most pride in being the lead blocker for third-year running back Alfred Morris, who was named to his first Pro Bowl last season.
"I think for the zone scheme, I bring some capabilities to this offense," Young said. "But it's Alfred [Morris], man. It's Alfred and the line. I'm just another guy in the way trying to get Alfred to where he's trying to be."
Working in conjunction with the offensive line in protection, Young likes the fact that they've remained relatively intact over the last few seasons.
"It's pretty sweet, because you know how to play off some guys," he said. "It's a credit to [offensive line] coach [Chris] Foerster and his guys putting us in the right situations to know what's best for us and that's what you want.
"To me, those guys are all playing lights out right now. We're one of the best teams in terms of the 3rd-and-5 and the offensive line play is a big reason why."
Also returning for their third seasons with the Redskins in 2014 are quarterbacks Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins.
Young said both quarterbacks have matured greatly over the past two-plus seasons "in terms of awareness, feel, checking out of stuff, (and) recognizing the blitzes."
"They've always been leaders, they've had to be leaders coming in, but now you look at what they're doing and they are leaders just because they have years under their belt now," Young said of Griffin III and Cousins.
As for his own growth, Young said former NFL player and current Redskins running backs coach Randy Jordan has been tremendous, as he "understands what they're going through."
"The best thing is that he understands some of the mistakes that we make and some of the things that we do," Young said of Jordan, who is in his first year coaching the Redskins' backs. "He's been through it. I think a guy that's actually physically been through something can attest to something, and defend why you're thinking it.
"He puts us in the best situation in terms of, mentally, why you want to do this."