If there's anyone in the Los Angeles Chargers locker room who can speak to the importance of the fourth preseason game, it's Austin Ekeler.
Two years ago, the undrafted running back out of Colorado's Western State essentially sealed his role on the ensuing 53-man roster due to his performance in the final game of the preseason.
His impact in that game was so strong, Head Coach Anthony Lynn cited Ekeler as an example for what he's looking for come Thursday.
"What I'm looking for is (players like) Austin Ekeler," Lynn said. "That's when he made this football team — in this game this Thursday night (two years ago). I'm looking for guys to step up, make plays like him and change our minds."
With just days to go before they take the field at Levi's Stadium, what's the best way to focus as players head into this final preseason match?
If you ask Ekeler, it all comes down to preparation.
"Three years ago, my head was spinning," Ekeler mentioned. "I was so nervous (and was thinking,) 'What is the play?' (I had to) just get the play down and go from there. Now, I see the younger guys making these (same) mistakes and (I tell them they) have to focus on scheme more. You would have known that if you put in a little more time. It comes down to getting around the guys, asking questions and study, study, study. That was my emphasis. I told my family to chill and not talk to me because I was going to go all-in on my studying and do everything I can just to be here."
So if they have the playbook down, what do they need to do when they actually see the field for large amounts of time against the San Francisco 49ers?
"Going into the last game, there's so much hype that it's (these guys') last chance," he said. "Look, it's your last chance as far as preseason. But, you don't have to do anything crazy. We're not expecting you to score all these touchdowns, make all these picks, do all this crazy stuff and make all these tackles. It comes down to, are you doing your assignment? And are you in the right spot to know what you're doing? Because at the end of the day, coaches will trust you when you're on the field."
Ekeler did admit his performance in that final game was his best of the preseason. However, he mentioned he was just doing his job to the best of his ability. Afterall, Lynn stated Tuesday it was Ekeler's prowess on special teams that inked him a spot on the 53 just days later as he played 44 percent of the special teams snaps in that game in 2017.
"In my last preseason game, that was the best game I had. But it wasn't because I had a lot of stats, it was because I was running down kickoffs, I had a couple tackles (on special teams). It wasn't anything crazy, I was just in the (right) spot and made the play. On offense, I wasn't scoring touchdowns and doing backflips and flashy stuff, it was doing my assignment, making sure I'm in the right spot and making plays so coaches know that I know what I'm doing out here."