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Journeymen Willie Smith, Ty Nsekhe Fight For Spot

Posted Aug 16, 2015

Offensive tackles Willie Smith and Ty Neskhe have each had interesting paths to the Redskins, but both find themselves in prime position to grab a spot on the 53-man roster.

Offensive tackles Willie Smith and Ty Neskhe have each had interesting paths to the Redskins, but both find themselves in prime position to grab a spot on the 53-man roster.

Willie Smith and Ty Nsekhe are two of the league’s many journeymen.

Smith has been with three teams in five years (now with two stints in Washington), and Nsekhe has signed with four teams in three years following his extensive career in the Arena Football League. More notably, they each share another similarity: their pursuit to make Redskins Park their permanent home this season.

As first-year offensive line coach Bill Callahan tries to re-invent his unit like Joe Bugel did for The Hogs during the 1982 training camp, he focuses on what matters the most. For Callahan, that’s something as small as having a square stance; it can be the deciding factor between a touchdown or a sack; a win or a loss.

Last week as the Redskins prepared for their first preseason game of the season against the Cleveland Browns, Smith and Nsekhe, both tackles, walked off the practice field with Callahan. They listened to his advice, because for them, it may be a “now or never” situation.

“If you can just hone in on those things, they’re tools for your toolbox on game day,” Smith said.

Smith played for the Redskins his rookie year in 2011, when he appeared in four games with three starts. From 2011-2012, he started 10 of 13 games, but has only started one game since. This training camp is a renewal of his career.

During a practice last week, Smith was thrust into a starting role at left tackle due to Trent Williams’ veteran’s day off.  Smith said coming from a small town of about 1,400 (Kenley, N.C.), he has always had a chip on his shoulder. If his number is called, he will play like everything on the line. To him, everything is.

“I’m making sure I can take care of my family, and [I’m] coming from a small town in Kenley man, where nobody ever had an opportunity,” Smith said. “So that motivates me to go out there every day to prove to them that they can do it too.”

As for Nsekhe, the 6-foot, 6-inch, 330 pounder was at one time doubling up as a receiver in the Arena Football League, hauling in eight catches for three touchdowns in 2011. Since transitioning to the NFL in 2012, though, he has only played in two games; his NFL debut coincidentally was against the Redskins.

“I’m back basically where it all started,” Nsekhe said. “It’s like FedExField back in 2012. Everything happens for a reason.”

Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said Nsekhe “obviously has the physical tools,” enough to make the roster if he performs well during the preseason games. To do that, he will have to get a grip on the system and be as mentally fit.

The mental game has been a struggle for Nsekhe over the past two seasons. Around this time, he is with a team. He battles, but trend has it that he will be released. So, this training camp is different. He wants it to be different.

“This training camp I’ve came in focused,” Nsekhe said. “It’s like my back is against the wall. I feel like this is actually my last opportunity.”

As Callahan continues to improve the line, he knows there will be mistakes. But for Smith and Nsekhe, mistakes may mean their career.

“It’s all or nothing,” Nsekhe said.

RELATED LINKS:
-- Young Tight Ends Have Chance To Make Impact
-- Bates Records Back-To-Back Sacks In NFL Debut

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