The Miami Dolphins spent much of the last two offseasons rebuilding and redesigning the defense, adding players at every position grouping. Robert Quinn, Davon Godchaux, Vincent Taylor, William Hayes, Raekwon McMillan, Jerome Baker, Stephane Anthony, Cordrea Tankersley, T.J. McDonald, Nate Allen, and Minkah Fitzpatrick have all been added to the roster in the past two offseasons. The rock on the defense through all these changes has been defensive end Cameron Wake, who continues to man the left edge of the defensive line since signing with Miami in 2009 out of the Canadian Football League.
Wake is not human. At 36-years-old, Wake is still contributing double-digit sacks and is among the top pass rushers in the league. How does he keep up this performance year-after-year? Wake discussed his dedication to the game on Wednesday.
“I feel good,” Wake said after the day’s Organized Team Activity practice. ”I feel as good as I’ve ever felt. As you get closer and closer to tapping out that battle with father time, I think you have to do whatever you can on the other side as far as the wisdom of the game. You maybe can’t physically work as hard, but you can definitely work smarter. There are more things I know now that I didn’t know when I was 25 years old when I was out there running around with whatever God gave me. To be able to be as physically able as possible at 36, and still have that wisdom to put those two things together, I think you can still be successful. Again, with a little bit of sacrifice, if it’s worth it, then I think the fruits of your labor will come to bear. So, I’m looking forward to it.”
Wake was not done talking about what keeps him immortal. “All year round,” he said of his work schedule. “It’s a lifestyle. People always ask me, ‘When do you cheat?’ or ‘When do you do this?’ To me, it’s … I don’t even look at it like a cheat. I’ve decided many years ago that this is going to be my life if I want to be successful. To me, every week off that I’m taking is a week that some other guy is not, or a week that I’m stepping back or a sack that I’m going to miss or a play that I’m not going to get. It all comes down to what it’s worth. If I told you or I told a rookie or whoever, ‘Listen, if you never drink a drink of alcohol throughout your entire career, you’ll have 15 more sacks for the years you’re playing. Whatever that is. Is that worth it to you?’ Some guys say yes; some guys says no. ‘Never have fried food for your 10 years and you’ll make X more money.’ Some guys say yes, some guys say no. To me, even if it’s one sack, one play, it’s worth it, because 10 years from now when I’m not playing, I can have all the cheeseburgers, all the beaches, all the everything, because I put the time in now to put myself in a position that I can have all those things. But if you try to do it the other way around, you won’t be in that position to even enjoy the stuff that you’re working towards. It’s all year round. It’s 24/7. It’s just a lifestyle. It’s not a cheat or a weekend. It’s my life and it won’t change until I stop playing.”
Wake explained that he gave up beer in 2005, realizing that without alcohol, he could get a step advantage on another player who may have been drinking and possibly did not fully recover from his last game. ”Beer is not going to change,” Wake explained. ”Beer is going to taste the same in 10 years as it tastes tomorrow, yesterday and that sack won’t. That opportunity won’t be there 10 years from now. So, I can get it now; I’ll have the beer later.”
Wake stressed throughout his media availability that he was not saying he had the only way for a player to reach their best, but he knew what worked for him, and why that way worked. He was asked if younger players had approached him about what he was doing to sustain his level of play after so many seasons. He replied that it was not just younger players, “I’m going to say not just young players, I’ve had older players. They kind of pick you brain and say, ‘Okay, what is it?’ And maybe it’s like he spoke about not having a beer year round. And again, this is not universal or exclusive to me or to football or to anything. It’s what is it worth to you? Is one more sack worth five years of a clean diet? Some people are like, ‘That’s crazy. I love cheeseburgers.’ Some people would say, ‘Yes, I’ll do anything I can to have one more sack.’ Because like I said before, cheeseburgers aren’t going anywhere – video games, women, partying. All of that stuff will be there, trust me. But you’re only going to have one Monday Night Football game. You’ll never get it again. I’ve had guys, like I said, veterans, rookies, people who work 9 to 5 all come to me like, ‘You’re crazy.’ But I’ve also have people who’ve said, ‘You know what? I’m going to do whatever I can to make myself better.’ It’s a universal thing for anybody. What is it worth to you? Are you willing to pay the cost? Some are; some aren’t.”
Thankfully, Wake is, and he is still doing it in a Miami Dolphins jersey.