His childhood memories are rushing forward this week, as Byron Leftwich prepares to return to his hometown, Washington, D.C., to play a football game for the first time since he played for the high school championship. He can be forgiven for waxing nostalgic.
"I did my share of knucklehead stuff," said Leftwich, who was raised in a rugged section of D.C. that was adjacent to old RFK Stadium. "I love football so much. I wanted to play football. I'd love to see, if I didn't have a football scholarship, where I'd be, what I'd be doing. I don't know. I may have been put on this planet to play football."
As a youth, the Washington Redskins were at the center of his existence. While trouble swirled about him in his inner-city neighborhood, Leftwich concentrated on the Redskins and finding a way into RFK for the next game.
"I knew the guy who took tickets. He said if (you) run through I can't chase you," Leftwich said.
He ran through, a lot. For this Sunday's game, however, he'll be handing the Redskins a nice hunk of money for the tickets he's purchasing for family, friends, former high school coaches, etc.
"Ninety-two and counting," he said on Wednesday when asked how many tickets he's purchased. Redskins tickets, by the way, are the second-most expensive in the league. It's payback time.
"I was a huge fan. I remember jumping around and being so happy the Redskins won (the Super Bowl). It was a big party that night," Leftwich said.
His mother, Brenda, was the steadying influence in his childhood. His older brother, Kevin, is now a postal worker. Their father was estranged.
Leftwich played his high school football at D.C.'s H.D. Woodson High School, a building Leftwich described as "tall with escalators." At Woodson, Leftwich was a football, basketball, baseball star and was named D.C.'s offensive player of the year in his senior season.
"I did the same stupid stuff everybody else did. It was luck," he said of not having fallen into trouble, as so many of his neighborhood's youth did.
Eight years of college and professional football later, Leftwich belongs to an elite club. He is one of 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL and his assignment this week is to return to the place of his youth and defeat the team of his childhood heart.
"We have to score more touchdowns; throw more touchdowns, run for more touchdowns," Leftwich said when asked about the Jaguars' lackadaisical offense.
Through three games, the Jaguars are averaging just 15.7 points per game. Coach Jack Del Rio refers to three games as a small sampling, but the season will be 25 percent complete when Sunday's game ends.
"It's not a problem, though. We understand we have to score more touchdowns," he added. "We have to win a football game. That's what it's about."