Isaiah Pead is leading the Dolphins in rushing this preseason and is responsible for more big plays than anyone else on the roster.
So when someone says his odds of winning a job are increasing, it makes sense.
Not much else about his story does. Especially the part about how this virtual unknown has become one of the most intriguing prospects this preseason, a summer underdog story come to life.
Until now, Pead had spent so much time off the field, while being injured or unemployed, that he wondered if he should launch the trucking business he’d been considering.
“Semis or dump trucks, things like that,” he said.
Things like that aren’t supposed to be on the minds of guys drafted in the second round just four years ago, so Pead kept plugging away with his workouts, hoping someone would give him a look.
In fact, somewhere around 10 teams did, he said. And after his audition with the Dolphins, Pead called his agent.
“I think I blew this one,” he said.
“I think this was one of my lesser workouts. I had dropped a couple of balls, stumbled a few times out of my cuts. It was bad.”
Coach Adam Gase didn’t think so. For one, the Dolphins had done research on Pead ahead of time. Plus, “It wasn’t as bad as what he’s making it out to be,” Gase said. “ … He did well enough to say, ‘Hey, let’s give this guy a shot’ and he’s made the most of it.”
Pead, 26, is leading the Dolphins in rushing with 14 carries for 98 yards, a 7.0 average, and has a 30-yard reception in a strong bid for a spot on the 53-man roster.
The Dolphins will keep Jay Ajayi and Arian Foster, who are competing for the starting role. Third-round pick Kenyan Drake’s hamstring problem could land him on short-term injured reserve, leaving Pead to compete with veterans Damien Williams and Daniel Thomas for perhaps one roster spot.
Pead’s 45-yard run against the Dallas Cowboys is the fourth-longest run in the NFL this preseason. He still has a hard time accepting he didn’t score.
“Should have,” he said. “I haven’t really seen the end zone and got swept from behind before, so that was kind of new.”
Pead was the Ohio state 400-meter champion in high school and finished as Eastmoor Academy’s leading rusher, bumping from the record book a back named Archie Griffin, who went on to win the Heisman twice. His success belied the fact that when he was 3, he was crossing the street when hit by a car. He once described it as, “Got hit, kind of flew, and hit another car. My mom said (the car) was going about 25-30 miles an hour and hit the brakes as it was hitting me.”
The car might have come out of it worse than Pead. The paramedics didn’t even see a need to take him to the hospital. He didn’t cry much, if at all.
Pead ran for 3,288 yards at the University of Cincinnati before going 50th overall to the St. Louis Rams, who had Steven Jackson at the time and later Todd Gurley.
Pead’s time with the Rams was marked by inactivity, a one-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy and a 2014 season missed after tearing his ACL in preseason. He was briefly with the Steelers last season but did not appear in a game.
“I had my knucklehead years in the past at one point, but you grow up,” he said. “You learn from it and that’s life.”
He’s also philosophical about landing a free-agent contract with the Dolphins in March.
“I can give it to you in two words: blessing in disguise,” Pead said, a slip of the tongue that solicited laughter from locker neighbor MarQueis Gray.
“Sorry, MarQueis,” Pead said. “Blessing in disguise though. If it wasn’t for the trials and tribulations I went through, none of this would be happening, really. I would probably be back at home looking for a job.”
With only half the preseason games played, Pead isn’t assuming anything. He can’t. Although he saw spot duty with the starters against Dallas, much of his yardage has come against the Giants’ and Cowboys’ reserves. There’s more to be learned, including how much Pead can offer on special teams, both on the return and coverage units. He called that “a foreign language” since he’d never played on special teams before arriving in Davie.
“I don’t think he’s changed much from the first day he’s gotten here and compared to what we saw the other night,” Gase said. “It just seems like every time he touches the ball, something good happens for us.”
Dolphins’ longest plays of preseason
WR Kenny Stills 55-yard reception
WR Matt Hazel 51-yard reception
RB Isaiah Pead 45-yard run
RB Isaiah Pead 30-yard reception
RB Isaiah Pead 26-yard run