DAVIE — If last weekend’s cameo was a precursor to a starring role this weekend, Jake Brendel appears ready for his close-up.
After center Mike Pouncey could not play in the second half of the victory over Atlanta, the Dolphins called on Brendel, who helped Miami turn a 17-0 halftime deficit into a 20-17 win.
Pouncey remains in concussion protocol, meaning Brendel could get the first start of his two-year NFL career Sunday against the visiting New York Jets, who feature defensive linemen Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams.
“It would be awesome,” Brendel said.
Or, to put it another way, it would be somewhat like his reaction when he learned he was going in at center, not just special teams, against the Falcons.
“Oh, I was pumped,” Brendel said. “Of course you’re nervous for the first play, but as soon as you hit someone, it’s just football again.”
He passed the test in coach Adam Gase’s eyes. Although Gase said, “I’m sure there’s some things that he wants to clean up,” he said Brendel did a good job in relief. Brendel said his goal in such situations is simply to make the transition seamless.
“That’s what we’ve been seeing in practice,” Gase said of that consistency from Brendel.
Football isn’t new to him. Brendel set UCLA’s record by starting 52 games, the entirety of his career. After flirting with the idea of jumping to the NFL after his junior season, he returned to the Bruins as a senior but still wasn’t drafted. His time on the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad was brief before he was signed to the Dolphins’ practice squad in October 2016 and promoted to the roster last November.
“With the Dallas situation, I got injured on practice squad,” said Brendel, who had a muscle strain at the time. “If you can’t practice — I mean, it’s in the name. So you’re probably going to get cut.”
It likely wasn’t the most popular move among some veterans. Brendel was a rookie at the time and the Cowboys subscribed to the longstanding NFL tradition that rookies shouldn’t just be seen, but heard, singing for the group.
They were surprised to learn there was musical talent in their midst. Brendel’s parents have backgrounds in entertainment, with his mother spending years as a choir director and his father working in local production companies. Jake estimates he was in a handful of musicals the family put on, acting, singing and dancing in his pre-teen years.
So the Cowboys had a star of sorts on their practice squad, not just on their helmets.
“They made me sing like three or four times because I was the only rookie that could sing,” Brendel said. “So I pretty much had to come to the team meeting with a new song every day because I never knew if they were going to call me up or not. It all depended on if the guy before me sucked or not.”
One day he had Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ on the) Dock of the Bay” down pat, the next, it was something from the Garth Brooks collection to satisfy the country fans on the offensive line.
Brendel’s entertainment interludes growing up afforded him the briefest of breaks from playing five sports. His father, Bill, not only encouraged him to stay active, but coached him for four years in football, which seemed like a 24/7 activity in the fall.
“You’re supposed to leave work at work and not bring work home,” Brendel said. “He’d always bring work home, so it was always like we were talking football at the dinner table, every single meal, every single car ride.”
Now that his son has made it to the NFL, Bill has gone from critic to booster.
“He’s more like, ‘Just cherish the moments you can there, do your best and whatever happens, happens,’ ” Jake said.
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