DAVIE—The Dolphins have yet to unleash powerful safety T.J. McDonald on the world, but his teammates know exactly the kind of weapon that will finally be in play.
McDonald has served his eight-game suspension and will return Monday at Carolina, almost certainly as a starter, and he gives Miami a menacing presence lurking in the secondary.
“From what I’ve seen, he’s a very smart, fierce, (expletive) hard-hitting person that you would want on your side of the ball,” linebacker Rey Maualuga said. “I’m just excited to have him back. He’ll intensify the defense that much more with his presence in the lineup.”
While they waited for him, the Dolphins played Nate Allen. That ended when Allen suffered a season-ending injury, leaving Michael Thomas and undrafted rookie Maurice Smith to fill the safety spot next to Reshad Jones.
McDonald, who played his first four seasons with the Rams, signed a one-year deal with the Dolphins in the offseason and turned that into a four-year extension by impressing them on the practice field. Including this season, he’s under contract for $25.4 million through 2021.
Miami loved what it saw from him in the offseason program and preseason, which was the last time he was allowed to practice or play. During his suspension, McDonald trained, went to meetings and studied film to stay up to date. He was not permitted to practice with the team until now.
Still, his teammates have seen enough to know he’s a significant asset.
“Man, I’m excited about T.J. coming back,” Ndamukong Suh said. “He’s gonna have fresh legs, so he should be running all over the field and having fun. He’s an elite DB that has the ability to play in the box, as well as in coverage.
“I think in preseason and really in camp when I had a chance to be on the field with him at the same time, he just finds the ball and makes plays. I’m excited for him to come out there and be able to do that.”
McDonald has not officially been added to the roster, but will be before Monday’s game. The Dolphins are at the 53-man limit and will need to cut someone to make room for him.
The defense could use a boost after the last three weeks. During that stretch, which included losses to the Ravens and Raiders, Miami allowed 95 points and 946 yards. Over the first five games, the defense gave up an average of 16.8 points and 295.4 yards.
The Dolphins have been particularly bad in pass coverage and are coming off a game in which Derek Carr completed 21 of 30 passes for 300 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
The Dolphins rank 31st in opponent completion percentage (69.9), 22nd in yards per attempt (7.5) and 14th in passing yards per game (221). They have the third-fewest interceptions (three) in the NFL.
Adding McDonald to the mix can only help.
“Tenacious football player, big hitter, smart,” linebacker Mike Hull said. “Great guy to be around. Having him in the locker room and being around him, he’s a great leader. He’s willing to take guys to the next level with him, which is cool to see.”
DAVIE — Dolphins equipment man Joe Cimino better start brushing up on the latest in helmet safety. Nutritionist Mary Ann Kelly, get your gluten-free menu in order. And security chief emeritus Stu Weinstein, recite the plan for fending off nosy reporters.
With defensive coordinator Matt Burke running the show, everything is fair game.
Burke has just adopted a technique from his mentor, Jim Schwartz, that keeps everybody honest about their job. He’ll call out someone to the front of the defensive meeting room and give them a five-question pop quiz.
No pressure, other than all those eyes upon you and all the heckling of an impromptu frat party.
Right, rookie safety Maurice Smith?
Smith was the lucky first victim to go under the spotlight last week. Smith said Burke asked “like five” questions, “but it felt like it was about 10, you know?”
In Burke’s world, it’s not enough to know your job. You have to know everybody else’s, too. “The big picture,” Smith called it.
“Certain things related to the scheme for that week,” Smith said. “So he was asking me, ‘Why are we doing this to stop this route?’ and I had to tell him that. So it got into detail, that’s for sure.”
A little jittery, rook?
“I was nervous,” Smith said. “Anytime you sit on a spot like that — it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been around.”
Smith was nervous, but prepared. He gave himself an A-minus, saying he started to fumble on two answers, but Burke threw him a lifeline, allowing him to correct himself, and he passed.
“Just specific stuff that those guys should know,” Burke said. “He nailed all five of them.”
Smith has absolutely no problem with it.
“If you mess up, and you get another chance at it, you don’t want to be that person who messes up again,” Smith said. “That’s not going to be a good look. It’s good when the coaches see that you’re prepared.”
Burke’s reasoning goes back to the opener, when undrafted free agent Chase Allen was called upon to start at linebacker the night before the game because Lawrence Timmons went AWOL.
“We said, ‘Bro, you’re starting tomorrow,’ ” Burke said. “And he went out there and performed. My point is that everybody in that room — that sits in our defensive room — is on call.
“ … You may only get two reps in practice but you’ve got to be responsible and know this stuff because you’re one step away from going into the game and you owe it to the rest of this defense, the rest of the people in this room, to be prepared.”
Burke traced it to his time with Schwartz, the ex-Lions coach, when the entire team gathered on Fridays.
“Everyone sits up in the stands, up in their seats, up in the auditorium and yells out answers, and then it’s different when you walk down in front of the room and the room is slanted and there’s 60 guys and they’re all heckling you and stuff,” Burke said.
“ … He was like extreme. Anybody that was in the room was responsible to know what they had to know. So if there was an equipment guy in the room for the meeting, he’d call him down; or he’d call a security director down and ask him about gun concealment laws, or he’d call a trainer down and ask about insertion points of this muscle. It was literally like ‘Hey man, we’re all counting on each other in this room and so you have to be able to prove to the rest of these guys in this room that I’m doing my job, and I know what I’m supposed to know and be there for you guys when I’m called upon.’ I always took that message to heart.”
There was one time when Burke didn’t have a choice. Schwartz called on a young Matt Burke when he was serving as a quality control guy.
“I was the only one and breaking down film,” Burke said. “I’m working two weeks ahead sometimes trying to work on the next opponent, getting my film broken down and stuff. I was like three opponents ahead and he called me up in front of the defense and I’m like ‘I don’t even remember who we’re playing week,’ and he put me on a spot. I remember that lesson too. It was good. I just had to dial it back like ‘Who are we playing this week again? All right. This is what they’re doing.’ ”
NEW YORK—The Dolphins have come a long way in a year when it comes to discussing race issues, politics and national anthem protests.
Michael Thomas and others tried to hold a meeting prior to the 2016 season opener in Seattle so the team could work toward a unified demonstration. It was such a difficult topic that some players walked out while it was still being discussed.
In the wake of Donald Trump’s recent verbal attack on players who protest, though, it was a completely different conversation when players convened at their New Jersey hotel Saturday night.
“It was totally the opposite of what happened last year,” Thomas said. “We brought it up to the team and black, white—it didn’t matter. Everybody was like, ‘Hey, let’s figure out a way to do something where we’re all together.’ Locking arms? Yeah, everybody felt like they could do that. I thought that was huge for us to do, so I felt like for today, especially since coaches are trying to get involved, the team owner’s trying to get involved, why not do that?
“But obviously there were some players who felt convicted in their heart to take a knee today, and everybody supported that, too. It was great to have everybody doing something together as a team to just join the conversation. You can no longer stay silent. You can no longer be neutral, either.”
Thomas was one of four players who kneeled during the anthem last season. He stood and locked arms with the majority of his teammates before Sunday’s 20-6 loss to the Jets.
At least five players chose to kneel. Kenny Stills, who did so last year, was joined by Jay Ajayi, Maurice Smith, Julius Thomas and Laremy Tunsil. Another member of the organization kneeled as well, but his identity was inconclusive in person and based on videos and photos.
Michael Thomas did not intend to continue kneeling this year and said he didn’t kneel Sunday “just because I wanted to be with the team.” He’s obviously not opposed to taking a knee and voiced support for those who did.
He was one of several players who expressed belief that their protests are not divisive. He sees it as inclusive.
“It is huge for us to have our team behind us,” he said. “More people joining the conversation this year is huge. Even players who don’t want to protest, at least this year they’re saying, ‘I stand behind my brother. Because the cause that he’s fighting for means a lot to him, I support him.’ That’s huge.
“It’s obviously inclusive if you’ve got black, white, player, owner, coaching staff—everybody all together. It’s obviously inclusive. It’s in a positive light.”
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.—Donald Trump wielded the powerful reach of the presidency to shred activist football players, and five Miami Dolphins answered by kneeling during the national anthem this afternoon.
Who made better use of their platform?
Kenny Stills, Julius Thomas, Laremy Tunsil, Jay Ajayi and Maurice Smith are the ones actually seeking to make America great in this exchange, seeing an opportunity for peaceful resistance and not letting it slip past them. There was nothing bombastic or profane about their demonstration, no venomous attacks like Trump’s assertion that those five and anyone like them is a “son of a bitch” who should be fired.
Only one of these approaches is truly un-American, and it’s the one in which the authority figure abuses his position by calling for those who speak up to lose their livelihood.
On the flipside, there’s nothing unpatriotic about the players’ civil protest. It’s the most American thing they could have done, and it’s misdirection to attempt to cast it as anti-military or anti-flag.
It’s not even entirely about Trump, though he’s the one who directly triggered this in Miami’s locker room. That would be grossly oversimplifying what’s at the heart of their movement. He’s merely a symptom of the illness.
“It was for this country,” said Jarvis Landry, who stood in the middle of the five and hugged each one of them afterward.
Trump’s the one who practically begged for this wave of protests, whether he realized it or not. It’s nearly impossible to differentiate between intentional and unintentional with him.
At first glance it looks like his comments Friday backfired, but maybe he wanted this. Perhaps he enjoyed seeing the reaction ripple through the league, spreading even to another continent because the Jaguars and Ravens played in London, as he plays to his fervent base. Maybe this makes his side dig in harder.
“I just felt like the president was trying to use fear, and we had a lot of guys that wanted to take a knee and I didn’t want to leave them out to dry by themselves,” Stills said. “I didn’t want to be intimidated by the president. It was time for me to get back in and join the protest, and with the support of my teammates and everyone locking arms, it was the perfect time.”
Tunsil wasn’t part of last year’s demonstrations, but part of him wanted to be. As a rookie, he admitted he wouldn’t have been comfortable explaining himself if he’d done it. There’s a lot of heat that comes with taking these stands.
This year, he was all-in. He made his decision instantly Friday night.
“I had to stand up for my rights,” Tunsil said. “Basically, he was talking to African-American players because we’re standing up for our rights and we want to take knees. But he called us sons of bitches? You’re the president of the United States. You’re not supposed to do anything like that.
“But y’all want him in office and that’s what y’all got. Now he’s calling African Americans sons of bitches because we’re standing up for our rights. What’s going on in America? People look at the NFL as though we just want to entertain people and amuse people; they don’t respect us. It tells you a lot when the president comes out and calls us sons of bitches.”
Based on the explanations most of these players have given, their intent seems to be unity rather than discord. They’re not looking for enemies. They want allies.
They’re demonstrating because they’ve seen injustice much of their lives and they want change. They’re letting others who share the struggle know they’re not alone, and they hope it prompts those of us who don’t endure daily discrimination take notice.
“I’ve done everything I can to try and bring people together, and people still aren’t understanding,” Stills said. “They’re still not listening. At some point in time, we’ve gotta step back and have tough conversations. You’ve gotta listen to people that don’t agree with you.
“I promise you, we’re trying to do something that’s right… We’re not trying to divide anybody, we’re not trying to disrespect anybody. We’ve never been that way. I just encourage people to have a tough conversation.”
Race-based injustice isn’t a new trend. It’s been part of this country’s heritage since its inception. The variable is how much white people notice and how much of a voice black people feel they have to speak against it.
Athletes have never had the ability to be heard like they are now, thanks to the massive reach of social media and the unprecedented visibility of sports on television. It’s inspiring to see them use it for something that matters.
“Before I’m a football player, I’m a man,” Thomas said. “That is above any profession we all have. I’ve heard the comments that this isn’t the time or place to do that, and you’re right that I could have a rally or invite people from back home—people that feel the same way I do—and how many people will I touch? How many people will I get to talk to? A couple hundred, maybe a thousand.
“But I took the opportunity today to show millions of people that I’m not OK with somebody trying to prevent someone from standing for what they think is important. I think that’s what our country’s about. That should always be respected. To have somebody calling someone silently protesting a son of a bitch is past what I believe is acceptable.”
And they’re doing it at great risk, though these particular players are fortunate to have the full support of billionaire owner Stephen Ross. He stood arm-in-arm between Reshad Jones and Mike Pouncey during the anthem, and no owner in the league has been as outspoken on this topic. He cleared the way for his employees to act freely by releasing a sharp statement against Trump’s remarks Saturday.
Many don’t have that security. Colin Kaepernick isn’t a great quarterback, but he’s good enough to have a job somewhere in this league and remains unemployed. Even as the disappointment over not getting to play lingers, surely he was proud of what happened today. He’s winning bigger off the field than he ever did on it.
Smith is an undrafted rookie at the back of the Dolphins’ depth chart at safety, someone most fans wouldn’t blink if the team cut him. He’s 22 and has no idea at this point how many years he’ll be able to earn an NFL salary. Some of protesters are so valuable that they can do pretty much anything and count on having a job, but there are many players like Smith who must weigh such consequences.
Many Dolphins wore “#IMWITHKAP” t-shirts before the game, as did strength and conditioning assistant Mike Wahle. He played offensive guard for 11 years, including a Pro Bowl season in 2005. More significantly, he’s a product of the United States Naval Academy.
“I have to put my health on the line for the man next to me; How could I not respect someone that’s gonna put their life on the line for the man next to them and for the people back home?” Thomas said. “If somebody wants to say that’s what I have no respect for, then they’re just using that to prevent people from seeking equality.”
We all like to think we have the guts to make a stand of that magnitude, but I probably don’t. I’m too concerned with my comfort and the certain backlash from family, friends and co-workers. I’d be an unlikely candidate to put my easy existence on the line.
It’s also admirable that players can compartmentalize so effectively, leaving one intense situation to step into a completely different one moments later.
The anthem wasn’t weighing on anyone once the Dolphins and Jets took the field for kickoff. It’s absurd to draw any connection between the player demonstration and the ensuing 20-6 loss to the Jets. No one who’s been around NFL players would think that. It makes no impact on their job itself, unlike how Trump’s fixation continuing to distract him from one he’s been doing so ineptly the last eight months.
“We stand up for our rights, we take a knee—that’s point-blank simple,” Tunsil said. “After that’s over, we’re playing football. Put the ball on the ground, and we’ll play football.”
DAVIE — For six members of the Dolphins, last weekend wasn’t just a dramatic opening start to the season, but a start to their NFL careers.
Six rookies shook off jitters and helped the Dolphins defeat the Los Angeles Chargers 19-17. Maybe a year or 10 from now, it’ll be forgotten by many fans. But not these six men.
“It’s a game I’m going to remember the rest of my life,” punter Matt Haack said. “So to be able to look back and say I won my first NFL game with a great group of guys like this, it’s something special.”
How special? Here are their stories.
LB Chase Allen: Starting was ‘kind of a shock’
As if your first NFL game weren’t enough of a nerve-racking experience for a rookie, imagine getting word at the last minute that you’re starting.
“Finding out the night before is always kind of a shock,” Allen said. “But I felt ready.”
Turns out coach-speak isn’t always just a cliche.
“They told me all week that if anything happens, I’m going in, so to be ready, so I felt prepared,” Allen said.
Chances are “if anything happens” usually doesn’t mean “in case the guy in front of you goes AWOL,” but that’s exactly what happened with Lawrence Timmons.
Not only did Allen start, but he was in on three tackles, including the first play of the game. Talk about a welcome to the NFL moment …
“We brought some pressure and I was untouched and got a TFL (tackle for loss) in the backfield with Kiko (Alonso),” Allen said. “That was like, ‘All right, I knew I could play at this level.’ ”
P Matt Haack: Keeping mouth shut a veteran move
Who says rookies aren’t smart?
Haack had an underappreciated role in the win. Keeping his mouth shut was half the job.
Haack was the holder when Cody Parkey nailed that 54-yard field goal that beat the Chargers. What was the communication like before and after the kick?
“I try to stay away,” Haack said. “I would assume that he trusts me that I’m going to get it down and everything. I mainly talked with (holder) John (Denney). We warmed up on the sideline together. In a situation like that you kind of let the kicker be.”
Haack’s job is to get the ball down as quickly as possible for Parkey to get a good, long look at the placement.
“You kind of have to go out and treat it like every other kick, but you’re always going to have that in the back of your mind, ‘This is the game-winner,’ ” Haack said.
Haack averaged 43.3 yards on three punts, starting his career with a 53-yarder but following with a 19-yarder.
“It was very uncharacteristic of an NFL guy,” he said. “No one was more frustrated or upset than I was at it.”
Haack said while trying to drive the ball farther, he caught it with the side of his foot and swung across it, “But coach Gase told me not to worry about it, stay aggressive.”
S Maurice Smith: ‘I’m a real NFL player’
Smith hopes many more memories are still to come, but last Sunday seemed about as good as it gets.
Smith is the type of rookie who takes pleasures in the simplest of things. Such as?
“The fact that I got to represent everything I worked for,” he said. “I think the fact that we came out of the tunnel and I was just looking up and seeing all those fans out there and actually being able to say I’m a real NFL player. It’s a blessing. That was the best feeling.”
Well, maybe not The Best. Because in the closing seconds, the Chargers missed a 44-yard field-goal attempt, making Smith a winner.
“I knew once I looked at it,” he said. “I was like, ‘Man, that’s a miss. It’s wide.’ Once it didn’t go in, it felt like we won the Super Bowl. But it’s just the first game.”
DE Charles Harris: Welcome to the … damn!
This isn’t in college anymore.
Harris, the Dolphins’ first-round pick, was reminded of that after his pass-rush attempt.
“I was kind of like, ‘Damn,’ ” he said.
OK, so maybe that puts Harris in the same category as 100 percent of the other rookies. Next, he had to figure out what just happened.
“I went to the sideline and looked at the little pictures of the play,” said Harris, who played 27 snaps and made a tackle. “It was, ‘OK, this is why they have these resources. This is why they have these coaches on the sideline, to help us out, to teach us. This isn’t like college where you can go in and you have a game plan. You have to mix it up mid-game.’
“I think that’s probably the biggest ‘welcome to the NFL,’ that you were switching up what you had been studying all week because you’ve seen something different. Being able to adjust on the fly.”
DT Davon Godchaux: View from trenches quite intense
Godchaux knew playing in the NFL was intense, but his indoctrination was under the most intense conditions you can get.
“When we did goal line, it was pretty rough down there, you know,” Godchaux said. “Welcome to the NFL, rookie. Coach T (DL coach Terrell Williams) always talks about you never want to end up in the back of the end zone. You always want to be across the line.
“But it got real down in that moment.”
The Chargers scored, which reinforced what coaches had been saying.
“You’re usually not seeing guys come off that low (in normal situations),” said Godchaux, who played a rookie-high 32 snaps and made two tackles. “So as a defensive lineman you have to come off first, get them in their charge so they can’t knock you back.”
Godchaux already knows what he’ll tell his kids years from now about last Sunday.
“Your dad played in the NFL and it was pretty good. My first game, we won.”
DT Vincent Taylor: ‘Kind of shed a little tear’ during anthem
At last, a rookie who’ll admit it.
“At the national anthem, I kind of shed a little tear,” Taylor said.
In that moment, Taylor was reflecting on the road traveled to reach the point football players dream of.
“Just knowing everything I’d been through, my journey, going through Katrina and me playing in an NFL game — that was emotional,” he said.
He endured three days without power after Katrina and now was making his NFL debut on the heels of Hurricane Irma. Taylor said fellow defensive tackle Jordan Phillips saw how worked up he was and “told me to make the best of it, take advantage of it.”
Taylor was inserted in a goal-line situation and made a tackle on one of his first pro plays.
“It’s only the beginning,” he said. “I’ve got a long way to go.”
DAVIE — Nearly 10 percent of the Dolphins’ 53-man roster consists of rookies who weren’t considered among the 253 best rookies in the country, because they weren’t drafted.
Monday marked the first day safety Maurice Smith, cornerback Torry McTyer, linebacker Chase Allen, offensive tackle Eric Smith and punter Matt Haack could step onto the practice field in Davie knowing they are NFL players, not just hopefuls.
“I think it says that our scouting department did a really good job,” coach Adam Gase said. “ … They did a good job of targeting guys and finding the guys that fit our culture and our program. We found guys that are competitors and it really worked out.”
One or two roster surprises in a season are no big deal. But when there are five, it’s time to learn more about how and why. So here’s a closer look at five Dolphins who beat the odds.
Who inspires you to play and why?
CB Torry McTyer (UNLV): I always watched my dad (Tim) play because when I grew up, he was in the NFL, I was kind of born into football. He was my big inspiration. Make plays when the opportunity presents itself — that’s the biggest message he gave to me.
S Maurice Smith (Georgia): My family, my son (Maurice Smith III, 2 months old). They pushed me this whole time. They were not too much relying on me but they were making sure I made the right decisions so I could fulfill my dream. And now, more so my son, just because I have someone else looking up to me and I can be a good role model in this part of my life. (Bonus question: Does your son have Dolphins gear? He’s got a lot of Dolphins stuff. I didn’t want to put him in it and take pictures until I actually made the team, so we’ll start putting the pictures out soon.)
P Matt Haack (Arizona State): My family. I’ve got a big family and we’re really close and I’m the first one in my family to come out and do something like this. I think it’s kind of on me to represent them the best way that I can. They’ve had my back since I was a little kid and believed in me through all the ups and downs.
LB Chase Allen (Southern Illinois): I’d say my parents. They taught me to have good morals and work ethic, so that’s the reason I got here.
OT Eric Smith (Virginia): My mom. I’m the oldest of four. She’s always kept me straight. Being the man of the house, even to this day, she kept me on the right path. Football taught me lessons. But my Mom taught me lessons as well.
What is something teams that did not draft you missed?
McTyer: A hard-worked, dedicated player. Just want to leave everything on the field.
Maurice Smith: They missed out on a relentless worker.
Haack: I never had my head set on getting drafted. I’m a specialist. It’s a pretty unique situation to get drafted. For me personally, being a lefty is an advantage and being consistent, putting the ball up with good hang time makes it harder for returners to catch.
Allen: I’m not sure. A lot of guys say coming from an FCS school, the competition is maybe less, but I always felt like I could play at this level and I feel like I just proved it.
Eric Smith: Honestly, they missed an opportunity to see me grow with their program. A lot of people doubted me. But I knew that I would get the opportunity and I would make the best of it. Fortunately it got me to the spot I am today.
What did you do on the last day of the draft?
McTyer: I was at home with my family. We were watching the draft. Unfortunately I didn’t get picked up, but I’m happy to be where I am now. It was more so motivation because I feel I could compete with a lot of those guys. Seeing those guys picked before me kind of put more of a chip on my shoulder.
Maurice Smith: We were actually at a beach house, me and my family. Obviously I was hoping to get drafted, but once that didn’t happen, I wasn’t too disturbed about it. I just used it as motivation.
Haack: I was actually sitting at home for a while, had family over, nothing special. We made it a day to watch the draft. My uncle’s favorite team is the Dolphins, so it’s kind of ironic.
Allen: I knew it was out of my hands, so I just spent the day with my family. I really didn’t try to think too hard about it. I knew if I didn’t get drafted, I’d get an opportunity somewhere. Thankfully it was with the Dolphins.
Eric Smith: It was the longest day. I was at my grandmother’s house. I knew it would be a long day. It was an eight-hour day. Waited, got to the last pick. That’s when I started receiving calls from teams, that we may want you. I had been to Miami on a Top 30 visit the week before the draft, so they were already at the top of my list. So I just waited by my phone. We had pizza and chicken wings.
What was it like to walk into the building as an official NFL player today?
McTyer: Oh, definitely a dream come true. Dreaming of this since you were little and it’s here. I’m very fortunate.
Maurice Smith: It was great, a blessing. But honestly, not much changed except my role. And my level of determination increased. This is a beginning, but now I have to continue to work.
Haack: I’m trying to treat it like every day. I’ve been coming here every day since May. I’m trying not to be too high in the high moments and get too low in the low moments. Trying to act like I’ve been there before.
Allen: It still feels weird coming in here and half the guys are gone. The rookies you came in with, a lot of them are gone. It’ll take some adjusting, but I’m glad I’m one of the guys that made it. It’s definitely surreal. I’m just getting used to it.
Eric Smith: It wasn’t a huge switch. It was a huge relief off my shoulders. But at the same time I don’t want to step back. I’ve got to keep it going. Because the same guys I’m working with now, are still going to hold me to a standard. I was sharing that locker right there with Isaac Asiata from May until this past Friday. I came in and I text him. I told him I guess the decision was made. I saw them take my stuff and put it into a separate locker. I was like, ‘We made it. They want to keep us here.’ When it came out that we both made the 53, that was unbelievable.
At what moment did you feel you had a chance to make the team?
McTyer: I always believed I had a shot. The only person that can determine the best I can be is me.
Maurice Smith: Honestly, I think in minicamp, as soon as we got here. … It’s really all about your mindset when you’re coming in.
Haack: You have to be confident and positive about this whole thing, so I came in with the mindset of making the team. Obviously I knew I had competition. If you go through any day going halfway, that’s when you make a mistake. I had to treat every day like I was the starting punter. I wouldn’t say there was one point where I’d say I made it because me and Matt (Darr) competed until the end and he’s a great punter. He’ll be on another team here soon. I have no doubt about that.
Allen: I felt the whole time I was going to get my opportunities. I just had to make the best of it. When two guys in front of me went down, it was next man up, so I didn’t change anything.
Eric Smith: My head coach at Virginia told me, ‘Eric all you need is a shot.’ He told me that from the very last game of our senior year.
What is the coolest reaction you’ve received from relative/friend/coach etc.?
McTyer: A lot of people close to me always believed in me, so it’s not really much of a shock to my family that I made it.
Maurice Smith: I think it was my mom. She just ran up and down the street, just crying and screaming. Our neighbors called the police. I don’t know what got into her. Of course it was one of the best accomplishments of my life but she freaked out. And I heard the police knocking on the door and stuff, so it was crazy. They were like, ‘Congratulations.’ They sat around for about five minutes, just talking.
Haack: My family members or friends back home saying they’re going to buy jerseys and stuff. You know, it’s funny, seeing people in the jersey of the punter on the team. You don’t normally see that too often.
Allen: I’d just say my parents. Talking to them, they know how hard I’ve worked and that this was my goal my whole life. Just talking to them and expressing that feeling.
Eric Smith: I called my mom. All she did was scream. She screamed and screamed. That was by far the best. My girlfriend in Georgia screamed, too. To hear their response was the ultimate. Because they have so much belief in us.
If you hadn’t made the team, other than working out in case you receive a call from a team, what would you be doing?
McTyer: I couldn’t tell you.
Maurice Smith: I probably would have been back home, just making sure I never lost focus, until the final no. I probably would have been a personal trainer.
Haack: I actually had a backup plan. I had started my master’s last semester of college in sports law and business at Arizona State. So I actually had to register a long time ago for classes. The administration there kept in touch with me to see how things were going. They worked with me really well.
Allen: I didn’t really think about it. This was Plan A, and that’s all I was focusing on.
Eric Smith: I would look into an internship in broadcasting. I’ve always been a social dude. I love to talk to people. At Virginia I took up a broadcasting internship.
Join our reporters for a special evening as they talk NFL with Dolphins Pro Bowl Guard Jermon Bushrod, two-time Super Bowl champion Bob Kuechenberg and former Dolphins Pro Bowl linebacker Kim Bokamperon Tuesday, Sept. 5 at 6:30 p.m. at Bokamper’s Fort Lauderdale. The event is free to the first 100 people and will include raffles, light bites and drinks.
DAVIE—One position that seemed logical for the Dolphins in last week’s draft was safety, but they didn’t take one with their seven picks. In fact, they doubled up at defensive tackle and went for a receiver in the seventh round.