ASHBURN, Va. --- The first playoff game should lead to jitters and memories. And a desire for more appearances. So says Washington Redskins defensive end Ricky Jean Francois.
He first appeared in the postseason in his third season, when he was with the San Francisco 49ers; he's now making his fifth straight postseason. As another in the occasional Life in the NFL series, the focus is on the first playoff game -- the emotions attached to reaching a certain point in your career. Jean Francois listened to advice from ESPN anchor Trey Wingo -- and he'll never forget the sights and sounds after his first playoff win.
Here's Jean Francois's memories in his own words:
What it was like: "We were playing the New Orleans Saints and Trey Wingo from ESPN came out to us and he had been there multiple times. He sat down and talked to us and said, 'If you guys never pay attention, pay attention to where you came from and where you're at now.' He said the playoffs are not guaranteed each year; there are guys in the league for 12, 13, 14 years who never saw the lights or been on this stage. He was just like, embrace it, win or lose stand in the middle of the stadium and just take time to pay attention to what you've accomplished and where you were at. It felt weird to me because I never took the time out to realize that, 'Damn, I didn't know how hard it was to get in the playoffs.' The same way it was hard for me in college [at LSU] to get to a BCS bowl game. In the NFL, it's twice as hard. There are 32 teams and only 12 are working right now. I want to be in the playoffs every year."
On taking time to soak it in: "It was funny. Vernon Davis caught the game-winning touchdown and everyone ran onto the field to celebrate. I ran to the middle of the field and stood in front of Candlestick Park and looked around. There was a cold chill that came across my body and I was like, 'Damn, we're in the playoffs and we just beat Drew Brees and Sean Payton.' It just took a minute. It was so crazy I could see every person's face in the stadium. I didn't care what level you were on, if you were on the floor. People were crying, people were in an uproar, people were jumping up and down. Just to be in that and be part of that. ... Every year you want to be in the playoffs."
On being able to sleep before your first playoff game: "For an older guy, this is just another merry-go-round. It doesn't bother me. If we make it to the NFC Championship Game or the next round? I'll start getting more antsier. But as a rookie I didn't go to sleep until 2 in the morning and I had to be there at damn near 7 o'clock. It was because of the excitement and that I was part of something. When you're a kid, you're playing video games and that's when you were going to the Super Bowl or the playoffs. But now you're playing in the game."