I don't always get the chance to reflect on my journey and all I've gone through in my career, because you're always on the go in the NFL, but when I do, it's unbelievable.
I've been chasing a dream that started with the burgundy and gold. I grew up just down the road from FedExField idolizing all the legends: guys like Sean Taylor, Chris Cooley, London Fletcher and Santana Moss. I envisioned that one day, I would put on one of those helmets, jog out of the tunnel at FedExField and represent the DMV with pride.
It's taken about 14 years of hard work, but that dream is coming true. I'm a member of the Washington Football Team, and everyday I consider it a blessing to go through all that adversity to play for the organization that I loved so much as a kid.
It's incredible. It's unreal. It's my story.
I guess you could say that my family persuaded me to become a Washington fan, but seeing the way guys like Taylor, Cooley, Fletcher and Moss played, they didn't need to do much to convince me. The way they played in one of the NFL's most competitive divisions had such an impact on the area. You could tell that it meant something to the fans. I just loved this team, and it made me want to have that kind of impact.
Having to prove myself is nothing new to me. I never spent time looking at how people viewed me on high school recruiting pages, but I knew that I wasn't as highly recruited as other players. I never doubted myself, though, because I also knew what kind of player I was. I'm a competitor and a hard worker who is passionate about everything I do. Every time I step onto the field, I try to make myself better and give fans something to cheer about.
Even when I was sixth on the depth chart at Buffalo, I never doubted that I was capable of being the team's feature back. I'm a big believer in trusting the process, so that's what I did. I prepared like I was the starter, I learned from the players in front of me and added their tools to my own skillset.
I'm grateful for those moments, because they helped strengthen my mentality. My experiences shaped me into the player I am today. I had faith that if I worked hard enough and took advantage of every opportunity that came my way, the rest would take care of itself and everything would work out for the best.
"I’m a competitor and a hard worker who is passionate about everything I do. Every time I step onto the field, I try to make myself better and give fans something to cheer about." - Jaret Patterson
That attitude helped me when I finally did get my first start midway through my freshman year. It was a great moment, but the events I had been through to that point showed me that I couldn't be satisfied with that. I always have something new to prove, so I kept working. That's where I feel like I took advantage of being an underdog with nothing being handed to me. Whenever I do have success, it's just more motivation for me to keep improving myself.
Playing in the NFL was always on my mind. Every high school kid has hopes of playing at the highest level, but I got a reminder pretty early in my career of how hard work can pay off. I remember during my sophomore year, Khalil Mack came to visit our high school. He also went to Buffalo, and I knew a little bit about how successful of a player he was. A few months later, he was a Top 5 pick, and it made me think that if he can go to the next level playing at a school like Buffalo, then I can do something like that, too.
I kept that thought in my mind throughout my college career, and by the time I got to my sophomore and junior seasons, I felt like I had what it takes to make it at the next level. I got to show that during my Pro Day in front of scouts from every NFL team. I talked to quite a few of them, but one stuck out in my mind the most. It was the scout from Washington, who said, "we're gonna get you home someway or somehow."
Based on what I had done in my career, I felt that I had done enough to get drafted. I dominated my competition. I did what I was supposed to do. I wasn't just running for 100 yards on Saturdays. I had games where I rushed for 200, 300 and almost 400 yards. No one is perfect, but I felt that my production spoke for itself. As the rounds went by, it became clear that my name wasn't going to be called. Chase supported me through the whole process, telling me to stay patient. The good thing is that I didn't have to wait long to see where my career was heading next.
As soon as the draft was over, I got a call from my agent. There were several teams that were interested in signing me as an undrafted free agent, but once I heard that Washington wanted me, I didn't care about any other option. My mind was already made up. I was going home. I got calls from Coach Jordan and Coach Rivera, and I was so excited that I came to the facility the next day. I couldn't work out just yet, but if anything, it showed how ready I was to compete and earn a roster spot.
What I've gone through since May has given me a sense of deja vu. I had to fight to move up the depth chart and prove that I belonged while learning to play in the NFL. Since I had been in this situation before, I knew how to handle it. I used rookie minicamp, OTAs and training camp to soak up as much information as possible. I'm the kind of person who asks a lot of questions, and Coach Jordan, Coach King, J.D., A.G. and Jonathan Williams helped me out a lot by teaching me about different concepts, protections and the offense as a whole. With time and practice, things started to become second nature.
Just like I did in Buffalo, I approached every practice like I was No. 1 on the depth chart. I started to notice all the improvements I had made, and others started to see what I can do. I had 40 rushing yards in the first preseason game. In the next, I had 71. I always believed I had the talent to make the roster, but there were moments when it hit me that there was a chance it was really going to happen.
I didn't want to think about that too much, though. I wanted to stay focused, keep improving and find more ways to help the team.
For our last preseason game, we were playing the Ravens at FedExField. Moments like that make you think back on the journey and how it went. I shed a tear thinking how I started as a high school kid who wasn't highly recruited. I went from being sixth on the depth chart at Buffalo to being a finalist for the Doak Walker Award and even getting some Heisman talk in my junior year. Now, it led me back home, playing for my hometown team in their stadium.
Even though I felt good about what I had done throughout training camp, I could feel the pressure from wondering whether I had made the final roster cuts. It's very intense, so I didn't know what to think as I got to the facility that day. That's when Coach Jordan came to me and said, "Congratulations." I didn't know what he was talking about for a minute. So then he said, "You can let your shoulders down. I said congratulations, but you have to keep working."
"Just like I did in Buffalo, I approached every practice like I was No. 1 on the depth chart. I started to notice all the improvements I had made, and others started to see what I can do." - Jaret Patterson
Then Coach Rivera walked over to where we were and told me the same thing. I slowly started to realize that I had done it. I had made the roster.
My phone started blowing up, but I had to turn it off for a minute to appreciate everything. I shed a few tears at that moment, too. All that time, all that effort had paid off. I put faith in the belief that things would work out, and it did. I called my parents after that, and they told me how proud they were that I had reached my goal.
This is a promise to everyone wearing the burgundy and gold: I'm not done working, and I'm not going to be satisfied with what I've done so far. I'm going to keep pushing myself to be better. All that I have been through has made me a better man. I'm determined to use those experiences to my advantage and become the best player I can be.
The Players' Post is a new, first-person series that showcases the heartwarming, humbling and harrowing stories of players on the Washington Football Team.