Ike Hilliard has been on both sides of the longstanding rivalry between the Washington Redskins and the New York Giants.
The former top-10 pick spent his first eight seasons with the Giants, appearing in 11 games against the Redskins. After spending the 2012 season as the Redskins' wide receivers coach, he returned to the role earlier this year.
Hilliard said that while he had a lot of great battles against other NFC East foes – including the Arizona Cardinals when they were a member of the division – as a player, matchups against several Redskins legends stand out when looking back.
"I had an opportunity to play against Darrell Green and a young Champ Bailey, and the likes of a guy like Sean Taylor," Hilliard said. "Those are the guys that taught me how to play the game.
"There was always an opportunity for you to learn and get better, and I'm just fortunate to have played against some great players in this league. That was beneficial to me and a lot of that I'm sharing with the guys now."
While focused on getting better as a player each season, Hilliard said that around halfway through his playing career, he began thinking about a possible second career in the sport as a coach.
"It was somewhere around year six or seven that I began to think about coaching," he said. "I was fortunate enough to play in New York and [current New Orleans Saints head coach] Sean Payton was our offensive coordinator.
"I give Sean a lot of credit. He helped me to understand matchups, how you create matchups, group formations and how you pair personnel groupings. The chess match was so intriguing to me that I thought that I would love to try my hand at coaching and teaching young players how to hopefully be a pro for the game."
Hilliard spent the final four seasons of his playing career (2005- 08) with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he worked with current Redskins head coach Jay Gruden, who was an offensive assistant on that staff.
Following the 2008 season, Gruden left Tampa Bay to become the offensive coordinator for the Florida Tuskers of the UFL.
Hilliard called Gruden to congratulate him on his new gig, and after a brief exchange in which he told him of his aspirations in getting into coaching, the former 12-year veteran was asked to join the Tuskers' staff as a volunteer.
Hilliard accepted, and in the process worked alongside current Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett in Florida.
"During the conversation, I told him I would love to be around and see how it operates," he said. "And he asked me if I would like to coach his wideouts. I was flattered by the offer and had the opportunity to go there and work as a voluntary coach the first year.
"Coach Haz was there as the head coach, Jay was there as the OC, Sean was the wide receivers/tight ends coach at the time and he also did the quality control. … To have that opportunity to work with those men, learn something about the craft on the other side of it, not playing and proving that relationship to this point, it's been great."
Tonight's game is coming off a short week of rest, as the Redskins are just four days removed from a physical encounter the Philadelphia Eagles.
With a week's worth of preparation crammed into only a few days, Hilliard said Gruden was already ahead of the curb in terms of game planning.
"Short weeks are tough because of the physical nature of the game," Hilliard said. "I think everybody understands that. We as coaches have to plan ahead what you've already done, make sure we have a good jump on what we're trying to accomplish in a short week and communicate that with the players.
"Coach Gruden has done a great job already being ahead of the game and having a game plan ready in terms of how we're going to attack the short week and we'll implement that, go forward and are looking forward to the guys doing well."