In his 10-year NFL career, there were two distinct times that Johnathan Joseph feared it was all over.
"After my rookie year, my second year in the league, I broke my foot," Joseph said. "The surgery went well but it didn't heal all the way. The doctors told me I had the option to either have surgery again right then and there once I got cleared to practice, or I could wait it out and wait until it breaks again."
Eager to get back on the field, Joseph chose the second option. He played just over half a season when suffered the same break in his left foot. It was the third time in his young career that Joseph had to deal with a broken bone in his foot, twice in his left and once in his right.
"I was just in the situation where I was young in my career," Joseph said. "I didn't really know what was coming next. I came off one of my better years in my career and I was just kind of frustrated overall."
Six years later, Joseph would again question if his career was over, this time as a Houston Texan. After leading the Texans with three interceptions and a career-high 16 passes defensed, Joseph suffered another devastating injury in Week 15 in Denver.
"I tore my turf toe there," Joseph said. "I remember the day after I had my surgery and when I went in there, the feeling that I had. I honestly didn't think I'd play football again just from the feeling that I had in my foot. It felt that bad. I didn't think I'd be able to plant and drive, or just do anything that I'm able to do now."
Joseph clearly remembers seeing players have their careers end over the very same injury. With new technology and the desire to prove he could come back once more, the veteran cornerback did. He wanted to do it for himself, for his teammates, and his family.
"I wanted to play again," Joseph said. "I wanted to go out on a high note. My family and my kids love football as well. My son was young then. I just wanted to go out and have another chance for them to see me play football again and it was just all those things combined that just motivated me from day-to-day to continue to push and never give up on something."
It was one of the lessons his father always taught him. Now, a ten-year veteran and two-time Pro Bowler, and father of three, Joseph's injury is a distant memory. He has diligently worked his way back and not missed a start since his return.
"I think guys who have long careers, they find out an early age that this game is more than just the football game," defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel said. "It's the game in the classroom, it's the game in the weight room, it's the game on the practice field, so then you carry all of that to Sunday. It's the game in the training room taking care of your body so that you can get on the field.
"Guys who are able to play 10 years, they get it at an early age so that they're able to take care of themselves and last for 10 years. I think Johnathan is one of those guys."
Joseph played five seasons with the Bengals and is in his fifth season with the Texans. He's adapted to different coaching styles, systems, and uses his experience to teach younger players around him. He's not afraid to learn either, open to always improving his game. All of that make Joseph a player who has played at a high level for a decade in the NFL.
In fact, Crennel notes that Joseph reminds him of another player in his 35 years of coaching: five-time Pro Bowl defensive back Ty Law, formerly with the New England Patriots. The two have different body types, Crennel notes, but both wore No. 24 while playing for him.
Vince Wilfork, who played alongside Law during the 2004 season, sees the similarity between the two.
"To me, Ty was the man," Wilfork said. "The way he sees stuff, the way he studied, the way he prepared, the way he knew his opponent. It's the same thing that J-Jo does. And now that he (Crennel) put it in my head, I can see why he'd say that. It's just how they carry themselves on the field, in the locker room. Everybody liked Ty Law, everybody likes J-Jo."
The Texans liked him so much, they extended his contract on June 18, 2015. The former first-round draft pick out of South Carolina set or tied single-season career highs in tackles (75), forced fumbles (two) and fumble recoveries (two) last year. He also became the team's all-time leader in interception return yards with 277 when he recorded the longest interception return of his career in Week 12 against Cincinnati, taking a pick back 60 yards for a touchdown.
This year, Joseph recorded an interception against his former team once again. He picked off Andy Dalton's pass in the third quarter in the Texans 10-6 win on Monday Night Football. He also became the franchise leader (64) after he added two passes defensed in the win.
After a decade of playing in the NFL, Joseph continues to be a benchmark for emerging players. Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis says he still continues to select cornerbacks and develop them in the mold of Joseph, whom he drafted in 2006.
Head coach Bill O'Brien certainly agrees. Joseph's longevity in the league has earned him respect from around the NFL. It takes talent, mental toughness, a little luck, and the right approach to life and football to have a successful career.
"First of all, he's a very bright guy," O'Brien said. "He really understands his position, but he understands the whole defense and he understands the league. This is a guy that from day one has always impressed me about his knowledge of players on other teams, opponents that we're going against and what their skill sets are and how our coverages are going to work against their offensive systems, things like that. He's a very bright guy and he's a great leader. He's one of the leaders of our football team. It's really good to just see a guy like that who's played a lot of football in this league to be able to continue to play at a high level. He's playing really well."
Take a look at the 24 best photos from Johnathan Joseph's career as a Houston Texan.