As the Miami Dolphins headed into the 2008 NFL Draft, the team was trying to redefine themselves under a new head coach and front office. After the inept 2007 season, in which the team finished with a 1-15 record, the Dolphins held the first selection in each round of the draft, and were looking to make a serious impact with those players.
With the first overall pick, Miami selected offensive tackle Jake Long. Four years later, Long has been selected to the Pro Bowl every season, and was named a First Team All Pro in 2010. Starting from day one, Long has only missed two games in his career, both coming last year due to a back injury and a torn right biceps muscle.
The Dolphins then turned around and selected Clemson defensive end Phillip Merling with the first pick of the second round - a pick that was essentially a first round choice after the New England Patriots forfeited their first round selection due to the Spygate scandal. Four years later, Merling has racked up a total of 66 tackles (just seven of which came in the 2010 and 2011 seasons combined), and just 3.5 sacks. He was also arrested in 2010 for aggrevated battery against his pregnant girlfriend, but the chargers were dropped when the alleged victim moved out of Florida, and did not return to testify against Merling. Back in April, the Dolphins finally cut their losses and waived Merling.
Exactly one month later, Merling finally landed a second chance, signing with the Green Bay Packers on a one-year deal. The 32nd overall pick in 2008 realizes that this opportunity with the Packers could be his last chance to salvage his career.
"You can take it for granted, getting drafted pretty high. Things are kind of handed to you and right now, shhh . . . - nothing is handed to you," Merling told the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel yesterday. "I'm working from the ground up. I like it though. It's a challenge and I'm ready to step up to it.
"I matured a whole lot from when I got released until now."
Merling also discussed the alleged domestic violence case. "In the state of Florida, if a police officer comes to the house, no matter what, you have to go to jail," said Merling. "We had an argument; she called the police, they came and I got arrested.
"It wasn't . . . I didn't beat anybody or anything like that. We got in an argument. She thought it was like South Carolina where you are just escorted off the premises."
Now, Merling is looking to put the past behind him, and finally put in the effort to make it in the NFL. "I am just finding my way," said Merling. "I just know it's a little more athletic; coach preaches me to be a little more athletic and I love that."
It's too bad it took Merling the last four years to realize he needed to find his way.