About four months ago, Jaret Patterson was looking for an opportunity after going undrafted. On Thursday night, he was living out a dream playing for his hometown team.
It was an emotional moment for the Glendale, Maryland, native as he ran out of the tunnel, and he tried to soak up every moment as much as he could.
"It was just a blessing to be here," Patterson told reporters after Washington's preseason matchup against the Patriots. "My mindset was whenever I got my opportunity, I was gonna take full advantage of it."
It was a big night for the rookie, as Patterson led the team in rushing and receiving with 70 total yards on 14 touches. For a player who is trying to show his coaches he belongs in the NFL, it was a strong point to add to his resume.
"I'm a guy from Maryland ... a blue-collar guy just ready to put on for the team I grew up watching."
It would be understandable if Patterson had some nerves heading into the preseason game. This is someone who grew up idolizing players like DeAngelo Hall and attending games at FedExField. And on top of that, it's hirst first-ever dose of playing in an NFL game.
Nerves were a non-factor for Patterson, though. He was just anxious to get on the field and make plays. That's exactly what he did, although he had to wait until the second quarter to do it. His second run of the night was a 12-yard scamper with some impressive footwork that left linebacker Ronnie Perkins grabbing at air.
Patterson rushed for 20 yards on that first drive, which ended in a touchdown that gave Washington a 7-6 lead, but arguably his most impressive plays came as a pass-catcher, which is an area that running backs coach Randy Jordan has been impressed with in camp. With Washington facing a 3rd-and-10, Taylor Heinicke found an open Patterson for an 11-yard gain.
Since Buffalo preferred Patterson to be a downhill, thumping power back, the rookie wanted to show off that part of his game.
"I want to be a versatile, every down back," Patterson said. "I could always do those things, but it was important for me to show that."
Patterson caught all four of his targets and racked up 40 receiving yards. Patterson's performance might come as a surprise to some, but Ron Rivera is not one of them..
"That's what we saw in the young man," Rivera said. "He had a terrific college career and he's had a good camp so far. I think we expected him to do some positive things, so it was good to watch."
Patterson is a small dude, Heinicke said after the game, but the 5-foot-8, 195-pound back has a lot of toughness to him. He also has no shortage of quickness, and Heinicke sees a lot of similarities between him and Darren Sproles, which is also a comparison that Rivera made back in May.
"You get the ball in his hands," Heinicke said, "it's really exciting to watch."
As the game progressed, the game started to slow down for Patterson, and he was able to show that he can handle any role the coaches give him. He evaded defenders, powered forward for extra yards and picked up yards after the catch. He also showed his burst; his longest play of the night was a 12-yard run right up the middle of the defense.
It's the result of Patterson's comfort level with his situation. He's been taking reps against a talented Washington defense, which has helped his development, and as he gets more chances to prove himself, he wants to keep growing.
"I just want to keep learning the offense, different positions," Patterson said, "so I can be versatile and...just bring value to the team."
Patterson's brother had a message for him before the game: "Go show the world tonight." Whether he was drafted or not, he wants to prove he deserves a spot in the NFL. There's still room for improvement, but it was a good first step in that direction.