The ball seemed to take forever to come down. Launched deep down the right sideline by Miami's rocket armed quarterback, it hung in the heavy, humid air over Sun Life Stadium before finally reaching the end of its trajectory and settling toward the earth. Three men, racing down the field, tracked the elliptical, leather clad missile as it fell from the sky, singularly focused in their efforts to haul it in.
Two of those men wore white uniforms, trimmed with red and blue accents, with silver helmets, the third, in a deep, electric aqua hue, and white helmet. As was so often the case a generation earlier, when Larry Csonka played for the Dolphins, the two men on the opposing team knew what was coming, but were powerless to stop it.
That's where the comparisons end, however. Miami's gridiron gladiator of yesteryear was a brawny, lumbering pile driver of a man, whereas his modern day counterpart is a long, lithe, sinewy athlete, streaking down the field in today's space age game. The tall, speedy wideout tipped the ball once, twice and gathered it in, spinning out of bounds with the prize. As he did so, jubilation broke out along one sideline, shock and disbelief on the other.
Moments later, the Dolphins would score the game clinching touchdown, and for the second time in three years, the New England Patriots would make the return trip to Boston having seen their aspirations of hosting a conference championship game, crumble.
DeVante Parker, who wears number eleven, plays for the Dolphins. Oh, boy, does he. Selected with the fourteenth overall pick of the 2015 draft, Parker is the first wideout Miami has drafted from the University of Louisville since Mark Clayton in 1983 (eighth round).
In hindsight, if that draft were held today, Parker would almost certainly be gone within the first five slots. He doesn't look as fast as he is, but he clocked a 4.45 forty at the combine, a blistering time for a 6'3", 210 pound man. He doesn't look as strong as he is, but he mustered 17 reps at 225 pounds on the bench press, one of the highest totals among receivers that year. Although he was billed as an intermediate, move-the-chains type player coming out of college, Parker, in an injury shortened rookie year, became the first Miami Dolphin since Hall of Famer Paul Warfield in 1974, to average over 20 yards per reception in a season.
Parker shredded the New England secondary on that overcast January afternoon in South Florida, to the tune of 106 yards and a touchdown, on just five receptions. Unsurprisingly, the Patriots chose a cornerback with their first selection in the 2016 draft. That's what great players do; they cause opposing teams, particularly within their own divisions, to try and counter their potential for producing game changing plays.
Having had a year to heal his surgically repaired foot and adjust to the pro game, and with a vaunted new head coach and what should be a much improved offensive line, DeVante Parker could well prove to be lethal to the defenses on Miami's schedule this season.