DAVIE — The draft pick who might stand the best chance of seeing extended playing time for the Dolphins this season is a guy who plasters war paint on his face on game days, but also a sentimental guy who cried when he was selected, a guy who believes “intellectuality and brutality” are hallmarks of a good offensive lineman and a guy who came away from a two-year church mission convinced he was a punk when he began.
Isaac Asiata is one other thing. Figuring there was no other way to put it, General Manager Chris Grier used slang you’d never hear in church to describe the nasty edge this 6-foot-3, 323-pound guard brings to Davie.
Rather than take offense, Asiata seems to wear it as he does the face paint, as a badge of honor. Forget whatever image you have of faceless and anonymous offensive linemen, because if his introduction to the Dolphins is any indication, anonymity won’t be finding Asiata anytime soon.
Perhaps in the near future, Asiata will be recognized for his play on Sunday afternoons, but for now, he’s the blocker who’s easy to recognize, period. Just look for the painted face, which Asiata began doing in Little League for no particular reason.
“The fans like it and I like it,” said Asiata, the first of Miami’s picks to sign. “It’s kind of an identity thing.”
Asiata said he’ll “probably” continue the practice on the pro level although it sounds as if it might not happen immediately.
“I feel like now I’m a rookie,” he said. “Those are the kind of things you have to earn. I can’t just show up and expect everything to just come to me.”
Asiata knows what’s like to expect things, because he once was that guy. His mission with the Latter-day Saints was primarily in Tulsa, Okla., and helps explain why he’s 24, older than many rookies.
“What I learned about myself was that I was a punk kid who thought he had everything figured out when he was 19 years old,” Asiata said. “I got a nice reality check. I grew up. …
“It helped me get out of my element, step back and kind of look at things that I might’ve been wrong about and cared too much about myself. It’s more about caring about other people. Life’s about relationships, how you treat people and being a good person. That’s what I believe in.”
Despite his religious devotion, Asiata plans to be on the football field on Sundays, not in church.
“My wife’s OK with it,” he said. “My mom’s OK with it. So I think I’m in the clear,” he joked.
His problem as a teenaged freshman at Utah, he said, was his sense of entitlement.
“I approached my freshman year of college the wrong way,” Asiata said. “I rubbed a lot of the veteran guys the wrong way. I thought I was something special. I thought I was coming in to start, I guess.”
That’s not his outlook as he arrives in Davie. For starters, he’s a fifth-round pick, taken after 163 prospects came off the board. But he should compete with incumbent Jermon Bushrod and veteran Ted Larsen for the right guard spot. It helps that Asiata has experience with zone blocking schemes used by Miami.
As for being that nasty (expletive) Grier likes?
“Any time that you can add pieces that increases the toughness of our team, no matter what position they play, that’s a positive,” coach Adam Gase said.
Asiata said that comes from a shift in philosophy at Utah. When he arrived, the defensive line was known for aggressiveness.
“And when my O-line coach, Jim Harding, came in there, he wanted to change that,” Asiata said. “He wanted us to have that kind of play — not just play patty-cake.”
You wouldn’t expect patty-cake from such a big man, anyway, especially considering Asiata’s introduction to the game was as an outlet because his parents were divorcing. He briefly gave up the sport but returned on a request from his best friend’s father. My son is the quarterback, the man said, and I want you as his bodyguard.
Asiata performed 35 reps at 225 pounds at the Combine to lead offensive linemen. He’s agile enough to go snowboarding (much easier in Utah than in Florida).
In short, he’s a man of different facets at different times, which explains sobbing during the draft.
“I love being here and I’m a very cheerful guy, but don’t get it twisted,” Asiata said. “When it’s time to put the helmet on and strap it up and go, that’s not me anymore.
“Now if we win, maybe. If we win a Super Bowl or something crazy like that, I don’t know, I’ll probably cry. Maybe.”
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