OTAs are here, minicamp is coming, and training camp is just a couple of months away. That means Miami Dolphins players are hard at work in the weight room, in the film room, and on the practice field.
In order to make a good impression on the coaching staff, newcomers will be hard pressed to absorb a massive playbook, all while learning the new verbiage and schedule that comes with being on an entirely new team. This must be done while simultaneously focusing on performing well during workouts and walkthroughs. How should a rookie, who has never played a single NFL snap, adjust to this whirlwind of difficult tasks ahead of them?
Well, the short answer is easy. Seek out an established veteran who has already done it so many times before, something that the Dolphins’ rookies have already begun to do.
In the NFL, everything from work ethic, to media relations, to diet can dramatically impact a player’s career, and understanding how to best go about every facet of being a professional football player can be overwhelming to young athletes. While it is important to establish one’s own identity, modeling their game after a seasoned veteran allows the rookies to learn the ins and outs of playing in the league.
So who should the rookies look up to when they first come into the building for guidance and advice? Luckily for our incoming rookies, there are also plenty of intelligent and respected football players in the locker room to become mentors to the next generation of Dolphins.
For a player like first-round pick Charles Harris, a perfect role model and future Miami Dolphins Ring of Honor Inductee is waiting for him from the start. Cameron Wake is the consummate professional, and while every fan of the Phins is hoping that Wake plays forever, we know we’d be lucky if Harris molds into his future replacement. In fact, in his introductory press conference, Harris said outright how excited he is to be learning under a player like Wake, saying “I’ll be that little brother. You can’t get away from me … In every way, shape, or form, I’m going to make sure I take after him. That’s a guy everyone around here pumps up and hypes up and I want to be the best, so I’m going to learn from the best.”
And Harris isn’t the only rookie with a vet tailor made to learn under. Third-round cornerback Cordrea Tankersley has already become close with his mentor of choice, Byron Maxwell. Maxwell, who played at Clemson a few years before Tankersley, has embraced his mentoring role, and has praised the 23 year old’s skill set. “I watched him a lot just watching the [Clemson] games” Maxwell said. “He always popped. He has great ball skills. He always finds the ball.” The fact that Maxwell is willing to watch over and teach Tankersley speaks volumes about him not only as a player, but as a teammate. Maxwell is due to make over $10 million next season, and unless he far outplays expectations, he may be asked to take a paycut or face being released from the team given the fact that no guaranteed money will be left on his contract after this year. Tankersley was drafted as a possible replacement in case the Dolphins are forced to take the later route. Maxwell knows this, and the fact that he can see past it for the benefit of the team shows that he puts the team first, something that will hopefully rub off on Tankersley as well.
The supply of well-rounded mentors doesn’t stop there. Second-round linebacker Raekwon McMillan will be able to learn from free agent newcomer Lawrence Timmons, a man who holds the respect of many around the league. Fifth-round offensive lineman Isaac Asiata will be an understudy to Mike Pouncey, an exemplary professional, locker room favorite, and one of the league’s best centers. Miami’s two rookie defensive tackles Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor are excited to learn from one of the best defensive players in the NFL in Ndamukong Suh, and Suh knows that he will be watched closely by these young players who are ready to make their mark. He had a very clear message for the newbies, stating that he told Godchaux to “be ready to come in, play, do your role and learn - shut your mouth up and learn.”
I don’t think it gets any simpler than that.