Released in early September, James O'Shaughnessy was immediately picked up by another NFL team that advanced to the American Football Conference championship game.
In that AFC title game, O'Shaughnessy and the Jacksonville Jaguars played and lost to the team that released O'Shaughnessy, the New England Patriots.
While the former Illinois State standout fell agonizingly short of a Super Bowl berth, O'Shaughnessy enjoyed the best season of his three-year NFL career.
"To know we were that close and were playing that well and had that many opportunities and missed it, it hurts," O'Shaughnessy said of a 24-20 loss in which the Jaguars led 20-10 early in the fourth quarter.
"The atmosphere was unbelievable playing my former team. Leaving that field that way was one of the worst feelings I've ever had. It took me a week to get over it. But now I get to look back and appreciate what we accomplished."
O'Shaughnessy called the defeat "eerily similar" to ISU's heartbreaking loss to North Dakota State in the FCS national championship three years earlier.
Yet O'Shaughnessy maintains the positives far outweigh the negatives during a season in which he registered career highs in receptions (14) and receiving yards (149) while hauling in his first NFL touchdown catch.
"As a team, we accomplished so many great things," he said. "The opportunity to become part of this upstart team and have success, it's a special feeling to get in there from the ground up. Personally, it was nice to take the next step and keep going in the right direction."
O'Shaughnessy was a fifth round draft choice out of ISU by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2015. He appeared in 25 games over two seasons in Kansas City, catching nine passes for 104 yards.
In late April of 2017, O'Shaughnessy was traded to New England along with a sixth round pick in exchange for a fifth round selection.
On the final round of cuts before the current season, New England released O'Shaughnessy. Six teams placed waiver claims and Jacksonville was awarded the tight end’s rights based on waiver priority.
"I knew I was one of the last ones on the chopping block. The other tight end I was competing with (Jacob Hollister) had a great preseason," O'Shaughnessy said. "I wasn't mad at anybody. I knew I had a good preseason myself, but he deserved it.
"It hurt, but it was the best move that could have happened to me. I got a better opportunity than I would have had with the Patriots."
O'Shaughnessy was primarily used as a blocking tight end and was a member of all four special teams units. He totaled five special teams tackles.
Utilized for about half of the snaps in the AFC championship game, O'Shaughnessy was praised for a key block early in the game by the broadcast crew.
On Jacksonville's final drive, he caught a 4-yard pass on third-and-19 but was quickly swallowed up by a Patriots' defense guarding against a big gain.
"I wish I would have done a little more with it. I did my best to get some yardage," he said. "It was nice in be in on that opportunity, that they would have trust in me to be in on those last two plays."
In his short NFL career, O’Shaughnessy already has worked with three accomplished tight ends in Kansas City’s Travis Kelce, New England’s Rob Gronkowski and the Jaguars’ Marcedes Lewis.
“Kelce and Gronk were both just great veterans to piggy back on. Gronk was incredibly friendly, a genuine sweetheart of a guy,” said O’Shaughnessy. “Marcedes is the best blocking tight end I’ve ever seen. He really has helped me take the next step to have the mindset of a true blocker, not just get in the way but really move people.”
The 6-foot-4, 245-pound O’Shaughnessy got an up-close look at how New England has become the NFL’s premier franchise.
“The first day I could see the little nuances of the regimen and how they handled business every day,” he said. “They are top notch in everything across the board with the greatest of all time (Tom Brady) at quarterback.”
O’Shaughnessy, who has one year remaining on his original rookie contract, holds no grudge against New England for Sunday’s Super Bowl.
“I definitely do root for them a little bit because of my familiarity with the players. I want to see them do well,” said O’Shaughnessy. “I played with (Philadelphia quarterback) Nick Foles with the Chiefs. But the only team I’m really rooting for is the Jaguars.”