As a second round draft pick in 2010, Linval Joseph had to know his number would be called sooner than, say, an undrafted rookie. But nothing is ever certain.
What Joseph did know was that the time he spent last season behind defensive tackles Chris Canty, Barry Cofield and Rocky Bernard would eventually pay off. When Cofield left for the Washington Redskins and Bernard was released (he has since been signed back to the Giants), a spot opened up for Joseph and his counterpart Marvin Austin.
Cofield, no longer with the team, laid it all out for Joseph.
"After I signed [with the Redskins], I texted him and told him and let him know it's his time," Cofield said in a conference call on Wednesday. "It's his time to shine. I'm happy for him and the opportunity he has. He's a good kid and if he stays focused and keeps working hard, the sky's the limit for him."
Austin subsequently went down for the season with a torn pectoral muscle and left the job for Joseph, who will be making his first career start on Sunday.
"It's everybody's dream in the NFL to start one day," said Joseph, who saw action in six games as a rookie. "I've been imagining it. I knew eventually it was going to happen, but at the same time, just for it to come up quicker than everybody expected, it's a good feeling."
He added: "First year, when you first come into the league, you have to play your part, you have to play your role. You get better, and then one day you eventually get to the top. Some guys are quicker than others – from injuries and things like that."
In the one year they had together, Cofield said Joseph was "one of the strongest guys" he's ever played with. Joseph knew his own capabilities, but he fully accepted his role, which was nothing new to him.
"That's how it is," Joseph said. "It's the same thing that happened when I was in high school and from Pop Warner to college. I wasn't a starter. I played a backup role in a three-man rotation. Eventually I got a starting role. I just wait my turn, and when that turn comes, take advantage of it."