The year was 2014, and Sean McGrath was fresh off his best season in the NFL.
After getting a taste with the Seattle Seahawks in 2012, the tight end had a breakout 2013 for the Kansas City Chiefs. McGrath appeared in all 16 games that season including nine starts, catching 26 passes for 302 yards and two touchdowns. He also proved to be an able blocker, helping Jamaal Charles run for 1,287 yards, averaging 5.0 yards per carry.
But as he reported to Kansas City's training camp, McGrath didn't feel the same zest for the game he used to love. Right then and there, he made his way into Head Coach Andy Reid's office and told the Chiefs that he decided to retire at the age of 26.
Instead of taking the field, McGrath returned to Henderson State to finish his master's degree in Studio Art. He learned a lot about himself during his sabbatical from the NFL. Most importantly, he rediscovered is love of football.
The tight end decided to make a comeback, and attended training camp with the Indianapolis Colts in 2015. After spending time on the Colts' practice squad, he split time between the Chargers active roster and practice squad after arriving in San Diego on Nov. 10.
It was a long, unusual path that led McGrath to America's Finest City. With two weeks to go before the 53-man roster is decided, the 6-5, 259-pound tight end is eager to prove he belongs. He describes himself as a throwback tight end, equally happy to make a big catch as he is a huge block.
"I'm all about effort," he said. "I play balls to the wall. I like to think of myself as a player who plays with a lot of grit, and has an old school, smash-mouth, hit you in the face approach. I like that kind of football."
San Diego's tight end corps took a blow against at the Arizona Cardinals after Jeff Cumberland suffered a season-ending Achilles injury. Even though he was competing with Cumberland for reps, the news made McGrath sick to his stomach.
"First and foremost, thoughts and prayers go out to Jeff," he said. "I hope he has a speedy recovery. Jeff is a great human and is so dang fast. It is a shame he didn't get a full opportunity to go out there and display his full skill set. We all know injuries part of the game so you have to take it and roll with it. You try and fill in the spots with the next guy up mentality, like coach always says. Your heart goes out to him, because we all know how it feels to be injured one way or another."
If McGrath's journey to the Chargers has taught him anything, it's to never take something for granted. With two weeks remaining until the roster is cut down to 53, he plans to make every second count to prove he belongs alongside Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry.
"I'm trying to make the roster first and foremost. At the end of the day, I want to fill my role and help the team win doing whatever they want me to do. I have to be perfect in my technique. Our whole tight ends group is chasing perfection. It's about making plays when we are called upon. Right now I see myself as more of blocker than the rest of the group, which is cool with me. Like I said, I will fill any role I need to get the W."