During a virtual media conference Monday Eric Weddle was asked about a memorable conversation that came during a frustrating time.
The former Charger recalled an encounter with Kobe Bryant from January 2016, near the end of his career in San Diego. Weddle says he spoke with the legendary Laker for about 20 minutes, and shared one portion of the conversation that has stuck with Weddle every since.
'Make them pay in the worst way possible', Weddle recalls Kobe saying.
The 'them' in that statement referred to the Chargers' front office.
After nine seasons with the Bolts, which featured three Pro Bowl appearances and two first team All-Pro selections, Weddle saw the only franchise he'd played for beginning to turn the page. The then 30-year-old said he'd felt disrespected by the organization, one he hoped to retire with. General Manager Tom Telesco and head coach Mike McCoy were reluctant about giving the safety a long-term contract.
The uncertainty clouded the 2015 season, which would up being Weddle's last with the team. During that season he was fined $10,000 for staying on the field during halftime to watch his daughter perform at Qualcomm Stadium. The team then put him on injured reserve, keeping him from playing in the final game of the season - in what turned out to be the final game of his Chargers career.
Kobe's words resonated strongly with Weddle.
"That stayed with me right, you know who you are, you know you stand for," Weddle said. "I held onto that and now it's all coming full circle."
This week presents a unique opportunity for Weddle to win a Super Bowl with a franchise from his own backyard. Weddle grew up in the Inland Empire, and on Monday spoke fondly of the opportunity he got starting his career in Southern California.
"I got lucky to get drafted by the home team in San Diego and be two hours south of where I grew up, which is crazy. To be able to have my family and friends at every home game for those nine years was just super special."
Weddle played for Baltimore for three seasons after leaving San Diego. He retired after one year in Los Angeles with the Rams. Now 37 years old, Weddle came out of retirement this postseason to fill in for an injury-riddle Rams secondary.
Now he has a chance to cap his career with something his first team is still yet to achieve: a Super Bowl win.