Interviews Archive

Away from Cameras, Dolphins Give Back to Communities

Thursday, November 22nd, 2018
Kenny Stills signs autographs for young fans. (The Palm Beach Post)

For Dolphins players, the job of a professional athlete doesn’t end when the gameday cameras stop rolling and the pads are hung up in the lockers.

During their free time, many give back to the communities that raised them, using their platforms and voices to make a difference in the lives of less-privileged families.

In addition to participating in nearly every philanthropic event the team has hosted since he arrived in South Florida four years ago, wide receiver Kenny Stills – a nominee for the 2017 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award – has spent each off day during the season working on innumerable charitable efforts.

“On any Tuesday, if you try to get a hold of him, you’re going to have to wait until five or six o’clock because he’s doing community stuff all day,” said Dolphins Head Coach Adam Gase. “I’ve been impressed with how he’s made himself available, how much he tries to do.”

In the coming weeks, Stills plans to give away presents on “10 Days of Stillsmas,” an initiative he personally launched last season to spread more joy to his fans.

“This will be the second year we try and sponsor families that need help,” said Stills, who personally selects and pays for the presents. “We usually do a meal and then give gifts for 10 kids. We’re in the process of finding and selecting the families. I’m sure there are other things that will come up for Thanksgiving, too. I’ll be sure to share those things on my social media.”

Nearly a year ago, linebacker Kiko Alonso watched helplessly as Puerto Rico, his father’s birthplace, was devastated by Hurricane Maria. No. 47 immediately started a fundraising campaign to help victims in both Puerto Rico and Miami, with a goal of $150,000. Alonso pledged the first $25,000, which was subsequently matched by the Miami Dolphins Foundation; in all, the relief fund generated over $165,000.

The recovery efforts are still ongoing, and Alonso stresses the importance of lending a helping hand, whether it’s for those impacted by natural disasters or unable to find food and shelter in local townships.

“There’s just people out there who need help everywhere, and there are a lot of people out there who aren’t as fortunate as some of us,” he said. “Everybody in the NFL is very blessed, so I think it’s important for anybody in our shoes to give back. I think it’s just the least we can do.”

Hosting food drives, supporting Boys and Girls Clubs or working with police departments may not generate as many headlines as game-winning touchdowns, but players recognize that even a gesture as small as tossing a football with a group of kids can leave a lasting impression.

“You always want to pay it forward,” said safety T.J. McDonald, who has regularly partaken in team community efforts, including the Dade vs. Broward All-Star Game and the Dolphins Cancer Challenge, as well as numerous other events during his time with the Rams.

“We get a lot of fame … (for) what we do and who we are, (but) we wouldn’t be who we are without other people. So, it’s very important to be that positive influence that some of us had when we were young. Just being that face there, it lets them know that it’s possible. That was big for guys like me growing up.”

Cornerback Walt Aikens understands the importance of having that kind of support and guidance first-hand.

Beginning at age six, the Charlotte, N.C. native played youth football for the Police Athletic/Activities League, which aims to strengthen character, build bridges between police and communities, and prevent juvenile crime through recreational, mentoring and educational opportunities.

Aikens credits the organization for playing a critical role in his on- and off-field development, and for keeping him on the straight and narrow path as an adolescent.

“It helped me in so many ways,” he said. “What PAL does is help kids like me stay out of trouble.”

In May, the 27-year-old was named an official spokesperson for National PAL, and proudly serves as an inspiration for impressionable children – including his younger cousin – who faces similar kinds of hardships or roadblocks.

“I can now go and talk to kids all over the place and just share my testimony with them, because it wasn’t always easy,” he said. “I persevered and made it to where I am today, and I just want to give back to them and let them know they can do whatever they want to do. It doesn’t even have to be sports, it can be anything.”

As Stills explains, the opportunity to impact the lives of others isn’t just something that comes with the territory of being an NFL star.

Said No. 10: “It’s everything.”

Flo Rida Makes Hard Rock Stadium His House

Wednesday, October 24th, 2018
Chart-topping rapper Flo Rida performed at a Dolphins game for the first time in his career.

Backstage in a nondescript dressing room, past the players’ locker rooms at the end of a winding, field-level corridor, Flo Rida scans the crowd from behind his diamond-encrusted, orange Gucci sunglasses and motions his two dancers to join him at each side for a post-concert interview.

Over the years, the Grammy-award-nominee has performed at countless sports venues, but there’s no doubt that playing a medley of his biggest hits during Sunday’s halftime show in front of his hometown fans, decked in an aqua No. 1 jersey bearing his name, is special.

Or as the “My House” rapper himself calls it, “epic.”

“To be home in the 305, I anticipated coming out here for a very long time,” he said. “I think this may be a pre-Super Bowl halftime performance for the Dolphins, you know what I’m saying? We have it down in the 305. It was so much fun.”

Born and raised in neighboring Carol City, Fla. – located 15 miles outside of Miami – the rapper, singer and songwriter was discovered by 2 Live Crew’s Fresh Kid Ice, who signed him as his hype man and later featured him as a guest on his 2004 album, “Freaky Chinese.”

Just three years later, Flo Rida’s breakout, chart-topping single, “Low” – the most-downloaded song of the decade – made him a household name. He’s since become one of the best-selling artists in the world, topping one billion plays on Spotify, with dozens of infectious party anthems.

His international success and penchant for penning smash hits have allowed him to celebrate with the Super Bowl-champion Denver Broncos in 2016, as well as kick off the 2017 NFL season at Gillette Stadium, but if there was any doubt his football allegiance still lies with the Dolphins, the 39-year-old quickly puts that to rest.

The locally-born-and-raised musician lists off a handful of his childhood favorites with a wide grin – Dan Marino, Mark Duper and Mark Clayton – and has close ties to a Coral Gables High School graduate and University of Miami alumnus currently suiting up for the Dolphins.

“Frank Gore, that’s my boy,” the rapper said. “I said, ‘What’s up?’ to him when we were out there on the field. It’s always a pleasure to see hometown (players) out here, representing, as well.”

Like all Dolphins fans, Flo Rida has enjoyed the team’s early-season success, and hopes that the next time he returns to the big stage in the Sunshine State, his favorite team will be playing in Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium.

“This is something that, being a fan of the Dolphins, we always anticipate and we want to happen, so I’m definitely enjoying (this season),” he said. “We pray that the Dolphins are in the Super Bowl.”

Dolphins Stars Appreciate ‘Awesome’ Dolfans NYC Reception

Thursday, September 27th, 2018
Dolphins DB Minkah Fitzpatrick Celebrates a defensive stop.
Photo: Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post

A native of Old Bridge Township, N.J., Dolphins defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick expected to see around 30 close friends and family members in the lower-level seats at nearby MetLife Stadium.

The standout rookie didn’t envision over 1,000 aqua-and-orange-decked fans cheering for him and his teammates from the upper deck, their raucous reception rendering the return to his home state even more special.

“It was awesome,” Fitzpatrick said. “I saw a lot of people out there. At one point, they were chanting, ‘Go Dolphins!’ That was really cool hearing them, and that somebody at the stadium started that chant. It was a lot of fun.”

Fellow first-year player Jerome Baker, in awe of the inescapable crowd noise, reached out to Renzo Sheppard, Dolphins Football Communications Manager, to find out why Miami had such an overwhelming presence on an opposing team’s home turf.

“Even just pulling in, you could see the tailgating, you could see our fans were there, and I was just surprised by that,” Baker said. “Being that far north and having our fans there, it’s just a blessing. In the NFL, I really didn’t expect our fans to travel that well … I asked Zo, he ended up telling me (about Dolfans NYC), and I just decided to say something.”

“We feed off of their energy just like they feed off of ours,” Baker continued. “When we – the defense – were up there doing our thing, our fans were yelling, too. I wouldn’t say it felt like a home game, but you could definitely feel our fans.”

For two of the Dolphins’ top offensive stars, the ringing celebrations following Miami’s scoring drives didn’t go unrecognized.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah!” exclaimed wide receiver Albert Wilson when asked if he heard the cheers after his second-quarter touchdown catch gave Miami a 14-0 lead. “After the game, I did a message to everybody who came out. It was great to get so many Dolphins fans on the road. When you get there and you quiet the crowd, and you have your fans going loud, it definitely gives us a spark.”

Running back Kenyan Drake, who found the end zone on a six-yard run in the first quarter, echoed a similar sentiment.

“It was good to score one in front of the many fans we had up there,” he said. “Dolphins fans travel anywhere and everywhere, especially for a divisional-rivalry game such as the Jets. I feel like they make it a key thing to go up there and really try to pack out MetLife Stadium. It was cool just feeling that vibe when I was up there.”

Drake, much like his other teammates, reiterated his appreciation for the support, and hopes to capitalize on the positive momentum as the Dolphins head to Foxboro for a pivotal matchup against the Patriots on Sunday.

What’s his message to Dolfans NYC?

“Let’s keep it going! We’re 3-0, baby. Just enjoy the ride.”

Dolphins Honor SAVE Executive Director, LGBTQ Activist Tony Lima

Monday, September 24th, 2018
SAVE Executive Director Tony Lima (right) poses with Dolphins senior executive Jason Jenkins.

On Sunday, in a pregame ceremony on the Hard Rock Stadium field, the Miami Dolphins named SAVE Executive Director Tony Lima as the recipient of the NFL Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award.

Surrounded by members of SAVE – South Florida’s leading organization dedicated to protecting people of the LGBTQ community against discrimination – and Dolphins Senior V.P. of Communications and Community Affairs Jason Jenkins, Lima proudly help up a crystal glass trophy and aqua No. 18 jersey bearing his last name on the back.

“As the longest-serving LGBT rights organization in the state, for SAVE, this is a huge honor,” Lima said. “We’ve been working so hard for the last 25 years to bring full equality to Floridians. With the Football Unites program, the Dolphins are not only celebrating and (being) inclusive of the LGBT community, but … are helping other organizations with incredible diversity, work on social justice as a whole.”

With a bigger platform to shine a light on longstanding issues of inequality and discrimination, Lima is hopeful the recognition will allow SAVE to reach an even wider audience.

“What’s most exciting for me, is that the Dolphins did this in front of 70,000 people who may not know that SAVE is out there doing the work that we do,” he said. “They may now have more of an open heart and an open mind to understand why it’s important to be inclusive of the LBGT community.”

During his five-year tenure with the organization, Lima, a Miami-born Cuban American, has focused on community outreach and advocating for policy change. Through the Prejudice Reduction Program, SAVE has spread its core mission of positive change through educational forums and business meetings.

Under Lima’s leadership, SAVE has made its most significant strides toward achieving equal rights for persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities throughout the organization’s 25-year history. In 2015, Lima championed SAVE in its successful federal suit against the state of Florida to legalize same-sex marriage, and in the year prior, lobbied for nondiscrimination protections for transgender individuals at the Miami-Dade County Commission.

SAVE has helped elect a record 75 pro-equality government leaders, as well as implemented a groundbreaking, nationally-recognized model aimed to reduce prejudice against the community.

“The model that we came up with is a deep-canvasing model, where in 12- to 15-minute conversations with a voter, it’s been proven scientifically that we can change their hearts and minds,” Lima said. “Just by having inclusive conversations, where people understand that they may have been discriminated (against) at some point, as well, and can see the connection between that and discriminating against the community. The great thing is that model is being used now across the country for not only LGBT rights, but women’s rights and immigrant rights, on a bunch of different levels and issues.”

SAVE is a grant recipient of the Dolphins Football Unites program, created by Owner Stephen Ross and players to help South Florida individuals and organizations maximize their impact and engagement. Through the launch of the program, the team is supporting SAVE’s campaign to reduce prejudice and expand the list of supportive community members.

“In this day and age, in this political climate, it’s not only about one community,” Lima said. “It’s about all the intersections that make up our community, whether that’s being a person of color, being a woman or being an immigrant. We have to stand together, shoulder to shoulder, and help uplift each other’s narratives.”

To learn more and make a donation, visit save.lgbt or connect with SAVE on Facebook.

Dolfans NYC Support is ‘Big-Time’ for Dolphins

Thursday, September 13th, 2018

When the Dolphins take the field in East Rutherford, N.J. on Sunday, players know the inter-division tilt won’t feel like a typical road game.

Not with over 1,000 aqua-and-orange-clad fans spread across four sections at MetLife Stadium, whose boisterous chanting and unwavering celebrations have left a lasting impression.

“It’s big-time,” said Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills. “It’s not too often that you go on the road and you have such a heavy presence in another stadium, so we always appreciate them.’”

For wide receiver and kick returner Jakeem Grant, the warm reception from one of the most significant contingents of Miami fans he’s witnessed at an away game has inspired him and his teammates.

“We feed off them,” Grant said. “They basically give us that momentum, with them cheering if we make a big play. We’re like, ‘Man, we can continue to do this!’ With the fans traveling with us and doing all those things, we greatly appreciate that.”

Throughout the eight previous #MetLifeTakeover games – especially the six triumphs – the loudest cheers have come from Dolphins faithful in attendance, who’ve shouted after every first down and belted out the team fight song following each touchdown.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by DolfansNYC (@dolfansnyc) on

“I remember in the past, we’ve seen some good support there,” said linebacker Kiko Alonso. “It’s definitely critical to have our fans come to those games.”

Alonso won’t be disappointed on Sunday afternoon, as Dolphins supporters’ voices will echo through the stadium, rooting for him to come up with a game-changing interception and Stills to beat his defender for a crucial score.

The applause emanating from Sections 344 to 347 is not only audible on telecasts, but travels all the way down to the Dolphins sideline.

“We definitely hear it,” Stills said. “It’s nice to have our fans with us on the road … I always make sure to go over there and dap everybody up and tell them face to face, ‘Thank you for being here.’”

DolfansNYC Q&A: Rishard Matthews

Thursday, October 29th, 2015
Rishard_Matthews_DolfansNYC
Photo: Bryan Hoffman/DolfansNYC

Buried on the depth chart and limited to special teams for much of his first three NFL seasons, Dolphins wide receiver Rishard Matthews acknowledges he momentarily let his emotions get the best of him during the offseason, before a pivotal conversation with a team legend reversed his outlook.

“I talk to Rishard probably once a month … he’s my favorite receiver,” says recently-named Top 50 All-Time Dolphins player O.J. McDuffie. “The things he was going through off the field this year – about the trade talks, the wanting to get released thing – I just told him, ‘Stick to the grind. Continue doing what you’re doing and working hard.’ He came in to the OTAs, mini-camp and training camp with a whole new attitude, and he can’t be denied on the football field now.”

Matthews – who entered his fourth-year campaign as one of only two incumbent wideouts on Miami’s revamped receiving corps – cemented a starting role, separating himself from his peers by utilizing his size and strength as both a pass-catcher and blocker.

“I’m a bigger receiver, so I do more when it comes to coming out of breaks and I take pride in catching the ball over the middle,” he says. “If somebody tries to lay a big hit on me, it doesn’t really affect me. I try to make them feel it more than I feel it.”

Originally a seventh-round draft pick in 2012, Matthews showed flashes of his immense potential early in his career – hauling in 11 catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns in Week 10 of the 2013 season – setting the stage for his eye-opening start to 2015.

“I think people forget that this is my fourth year,” he says smiling. “I was here two years ago when (Brandon) Gibson went down and I contributed a lot. People are acting like it’s the first time I’ve made catches or done something. It’s good to still be here … (be) a part of this great organization, great people and great staff.”

The University of Nevada product has started all six games – already matching his total from his first 38 NFL appearances – and is on pace to not only shatter his career highs in nearly every statistical category, but rack up the fifth-most single-season receiving yards (1,168) and touchdowns (11) in franchise history.

DolfansNYC caught up with No. 18 to discuss his remarkable success, adjusting to fantasy football stardom, enjoying family life and more.

What do you feel have been the biggest keys to your breakout season?

“I would just say opportunity and consistency. I was just able to capitalize on my opportunity when DeVante (Parker) went down (with a foot injury). That’s really the reason I was able to make it hard for the coaches to put me back on the bench.

“When given the opportunity, I’ve taken advantage of it and just continued to be consistent from there. I think the coaches have just gained a lot of trust in me, and I’m going to try to continue to do that.”

Have you set out to accomplish any personal goals this season and beyond?

“I want to start every game, but (if not), play as much as I can and never miss a practice. I’ll just try to keep that (mindset) going in my career.”

How often do you hear fans say you’re on their fantasy teams?

“I’ve been hearing it a lot recently. The other day, I was actually walking in the mall and somebody said the same thing – ‘Oh, I’m starting you!’ It’s new, but I just say, ‘Don’t get mad if I don’t ever get you points.’”

Who were players you admired growing up and modeled your own game after?

“I wouldn’t say (he’s a player I) built my game around, but I really like Anquan Boldin. I think he’s kind of the same receiver as I am – I try to be like him, at least. He does a great job of breaking tackles and whatnot.”

What have been the biggest differences for you and the team since Dan Campbell took over as head coach?

“(He’s) just changing the culture up a little bit – just bringing the fun back to football. Not saying that it wasn’t fun before, but he’s just changing it up. We all understood what happened and with change, you have to make sure you get the attention of the team. He’s done a great job of that during practices and in the locker room.”

I’ve read he’s a big Metallica fan. Does he play any heavy metal music in the locker room?

(Laughs) “Is he? I could see it, now that you said that. That’s crazy though. I didn’t know that.”

What kind of music do you listen to before games?

“I like hip-hop. My favorite artist is Drake.”

What are some of your favorite off-the-field hobbies?

“I just had a son, so I hang out with my son and my dogs. I’m kind of a homebody, so I don’t do too much.”

Congratulations! How old is your son?

“Thank you. He’s seven weeks, so it’s a lot (of responsibility).”

It must be even tougher now to go on the road, but how much does it mean to you to have fan support across the country?

“It means a lot. I’ve seen it a lot. It shows us – and especially the new players who come (to the Dolphins) – that wherever we go, we have love everywhere. You have to be ready, embrace their presence and feed off of it.”

Dan Campbell Shares Keys to Winning Culture

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015
Dan Campbell Shares Keys to Winning Culture
Photo: Alan Diaz/AP

Six years removed from a decade-long NFL playing career, Miami Dolphins interim head coach Dan Campbell – his broad-shouldered, 6-foot-5 frame and intimidating biceps hard to miss as he rests his hands on his hips at the center of the team’s meeting room – still looks the part of a burly tight end, ready to lace up his cleats and lay out opposing linemen with crushing blocks.

“I have one more (game in me), but then you have to wait four weeks for me to recover, so that’s a problem,” he concedes with a chuckle. “If I could still play, I would be playing because I love the game.”

That same fiery, inspirational passion for football that has galvanized the rejuvenated Dolphins is unmistakable as he addresses a group of website administrators on a Friday afternoon, his booming voice echoing throughout the auditorium.

“Coach Campbell does a good job of getting (everything) out of the players,” says Dolphins fourth-year wide receiver Rishard Matthews. “He was a guy they brought up here a previous time to speak to the team. I think just when he talks – I don’t know how to explain it – you have to hear him speak for yourself … right when he’s done talking, you’re just ready to go.

“He played in the league – he’s more like a players’ coach. He understands when he needs to change it up a little and when he needs to get on us a little.”

It’s no wonder Campbell’s no-nonsense approach has quickly resonated and changed the collective mindset of his players, considering the 39-year-old – who’s younger than five current NFL starters – has experienced the gamut of exhilarating highs and devastating lows in the pros, which include reaching Super Bowl XXXV and later earning his first championship ring.

“I’ve been on winning teams,” says Campbell, a recipient of the 2005 Ed Block Courage Award. “I know what it looks like and what it should look like.”

The Texas native’s appreciation of a winning culture and yearning for on-field physicality trace back to his four-year Giants tenure, during which he helped lead the unified squad to the title game in 2000.

“First of all, we had a really good locker room – we had a majority of guys who bought in,” he recalls. “Guys would play for one another; guys would practice for one another. Our practices got heated. I remember (Michael) Strahan got fired up every day, it seemed like … Things would go back and forth (between offensive and defensive players), but we grew together and we competed, and when we rolled out there on Sunday, we were one.

“Once we got in a rhythm – I think we won seven in a row – the feeling was literally that we could do nothing wrong. At one point, I thought Kerry Collins would just throw it behind his back and it was going to be a completion. You really have a feeling of it doesn’t matter what happens today or what it looks like here, we’re going to win the game. That’s the flow that you have.”

Although Campbell was placed on injured reserve prior to his final NFL campaign, he spent the offseason and start of training camp with the 2009 champion Saints, learning the nuances of the game from an elite coach and future Hall of Fame quarterback.

“I know that head coach (Sean Payton) really well – I played under him for seven years. He is a genius, he’s an excellent motivator – he has all those tools,” says Campbell. “But one of the biggest factors is a guy named Drew Brees. Drew Brees is an ultimate leader. I’ve been around some really good players and some really good leaders, but nobody was like Drew Brees … and that’s one person, so imagine if you have a team full of those. That’s where you start changing things.”

Campbell’s experience in the Bayou was a far cry from a year prior, when he found himself on the opposite end of the NFL spectrum, suiting up for the lowly 0-16 Detroit Lions in 2008. Recognizing a similar disconnect in the Dolphins locker room, Campbell immediately set out to recapture the seamless magic he experienced in New York and New Orleans.

“When you’re not doing well, or you’re on a team where guys haven’t quite bought in, you feel like you can do no right,” he says. “So that’s what we’re trying to flip. We’ve kind of been that other team, (but) we’re trying to get it to where you just can’t do any wrong and things just start happening – turnovers, they become contagious. The ball is flying around, guys are on the ball. The more aggressive you play, the more those things start showing up.”

Not surprisingly, Miami has outscored its opponents 82-36, averaging 468 yards of offense while racking up 10 sacks and returning two interceptions for touchdowns en route to cruising to a 2-0 record under its new leader.

“We have a really good locker room and we have guys who want to win,” says Campbell. “They want to compete, and they’re beginning to take ownership of their team.

“I really believe in those guys. Everything has been about, ‘It’s a new season.’ It started last week. This (was) Week Two … of 12 weeks.”

Q&A: Former Dolphins QB Jay Fiedler

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

Jay Fiedler - MetLife Takeover

By the time Jay Fiedler hung up his cleats – six years after unenviably following in franchise icon Dan Marino’s massive footsteps – only Marino and Bob Griese had won more games, thrown for more yards or tossed as many touchdown passes in Dolphins history.

For an undrafted free agent who’d been cut by two NFL teams in the span of a month, served as a volunteer assistant coach at Hofstra University and suited up for the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe – all before attempting his first official NFL pass with the Vikings in 1998 – seeing his name among the all-time greats remains especially humbling.

“To be in the company of those two Hall of Fame names – to have the longevity of being the starting quarterback for the Dolphins for five years – means a lot to me,” says Fiedler. “Certainly, the road that it took me to become a starting quarterback made it even sweeter. Every time you get a chance to overcome challenges and come out on top at the end, it’s a heck of a lot more rewarding than being given that job.”

Ironically, the lopsided score of Marino’s final NFL game presented an opportunity for the then-Jaguars second-stringer to showcase he was ready for a starting role – and as it turned out, No. 13’s eventual replacement.

“I didn’t realize it at the time, but I think it was definitely an audition for Miami,” recalls Fiedler, who completed 7 of 11 passes for a game-high 172 yards and two scores in a relief appearance on Jan. 15, 2000. “I think the thing that certainly helped me sign with Miami that following year was the fact that I not only came in that game and played well, but that I started the last regular-season game for Jacksonville. The Dolphins didn’t know who was going to start the game that week – we kind of kept it hush-hush whether (Mark) Brunell was going to come back or not – so it forced the Dolphins to scout me … and really opened up the eyes of the scouting department and the personnel.”

After helping guide the Dolphins to the AFC East division title in his first season in South Florida, the Dartmouth alum – who amassed a 36-23 record along with 11,040 passing yards and 66 touchdowns in aqua and orange – submitted his best year in 2001, notching 20 TDs (10th in the NFL), 3,290 passing yards (14th) and 7.3 yards per pass attempt (sixth) en route to leading Miami to a second consecutive 11-5 finish and playoff appearance.

In a recent phone interview, Fiedler reflected on his long road to NFL stardom, the challenges of succeeding Marino, Ryan Tannehill’s development and much more.

As a multi-sport athlete growing up, what ultimately led you to pursue a football career?

“I did every sport imaginable growing up. I remember when I was six or seven years old, I was into soccer, football, baseball, basketball, track and field – you name it. I did three sports in high school – football, basketball and track and field – and then football and track and field in college. Of course, being a multi-sport guy, I ended up doing the decathlon in track and field.

“I spent two years doing both at Dartmouth, and eventually, the idea of putting weight on for football and taking it off for track and field, (plus) the grueling non-stop competition, became too much. I’ve always loved football, I had some great success in Dartmouth my first couple of years, and I decided that was what I was going to keep pursuing.”

Which players did you admire growing up and model your own game after?

“My favorite quarterback growing up was probably John Elway. He was a guy who I tried to model my game after – just his versatility, his escapability out of situations. Although I couldn’t get up quite to his arm strength, I felt like I was able to do a lot of things out on the football field just like he was able to do.”

As an undrafted free agent, what were the keys to landing your first NFL contract with the Eagles?

“As an undrafted free agent, it was really just a matter of making the team. I had about four or five teams that offered me contracts right after the draft ended. I decided on going to Philadelphia because of two factors. One, Rich Kotite was the coach there, and he convinced me that he was going to give me a shot to really compete for the job and to make the team. And two, at the time they weren’t so set on their three quarterbacks. So, it looked like an opportunity for me to have a chance to make the team and to move my way up the depth chart as things went along.”

After being cut twice and out of the NFL for nearly two years, what did it take to make it back to the pros?

“That was probably the most difficult time in my career. Getting cut by the Eagles, it was really a situation of coaching and ownership changes – they were just going in a new direction, where they were kind of cleaning house. By the time they actually cut me, it was already a couple of weeks into training camp, so even though I got picked up by Cincinnati, I only had a very short window to try and prove myself. I was actually the fifth (quarterback) on the roster out there, so it was an uphill battle.

“I found myself out of the game for the first time in my life. It was a frustrating time, but I also knew from playing for two years, seeing how guys practiced and seeing the games up close, that I was talented enough to make it. I didn’t let it discourage me and I didn’t give up on the game.”

How did you train and what did you focus on during that time?

“I decided to keep myself as close to the game as possible. I went home and became a volunteer coach at Hofstra University. I’d known a couple of the coaches over there, and they gave me an opportunity to use the weight room and work out with the team. I’d go out, throw to wide receivers and keep my arm loose. It helped me stay sharp and stay in the game.

“Then, I ended up going out to Europe for a season, and played in NFL Europe at Amsterdam. I was teammates with (current Chargers Head Coach) Mike McCoy at the time, and I saw all the way back then that he would be a coach. Even though I didn’t get an (NFL) opportunity again coming into (next) season, it kept me focused and kept my mind on the game.

“Finally, after another year of coaching at Hofstra, it took one last-ditch effort to get back into the league. I got together with my agent and my high school coach – who was a big mentor of mine throughout my career – and we came up with a game plan to put a package together, send it out to every single team and start calling up every quarterback coach, offensive coordinator and head coach. We got one response from Minnesota, and that’s all I needed. Chip Myers was the quarterback coach, and he gave me an opportunity to try out for the Vikings. I went out there, they signed me, and from that point forward, I just kept climbing the ranks until two years later, I was the starting quarterback in Miami.”

In addition to Chip Myers, which other coaches helped prepare you for a starting role?

“All the coaching I got was the biggest thing from playing on all those different teams. I played under Jon Gruden as a coordinator and quarterback coach in Philadelphia. In Minnesota, Brian Billick was the offensive coordinator. Down in Jacksonville, Tom Coughlin was the head coach and really ran the offense, and Bobby Petrino was the quarterback coach. I was able to pick the brains of each of them and mold their teaching to what I felt comfortable with and what I was able to do physically on the football field.”

How would you describe following in Marino’s footsteps as the Dolphins starter?

“I never looked it as a challenge to replace Marino. I had success every time I played – from high school, college and during the times that I was able to get into games in the pros prior to that. I did it my way. I wasn’t going to come in there and do it the way Marino did it. There are a lot of ways to win games – that’s really the way that I looked at the position.

“Certainly, there were challenges just from an off-the-field standpoint – having to deal with media and fan scrutiny as the next guy after Marino – but I always felt like I had thick skin and never let outside distractions or influences change the way that I approached the game. In that respect, just from a mental and psychological standpoint, I was the perfect guy to come in and do that.” (more…)

Q&A: Dolphins Legend Chris Chambers

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Chris Chambers Web Weekend XI
Standing inside the same auditorium where his former coaches delivered passionate pregame speeches and reviewed game film with the team – Joe Philbin’s mantras and principles, as well as framed photos of the organization’s two Super Bowl-winning squads gracing the walls around him – former Miami Dolphins wide receiver Chris Chambers addressed dozens of fan-site moderators gathered for Web Weekend XI.

Joined by fellow team icon A.J. Duhe and Finsiders host Greg Likens, Chambers – decked in a black windbreaker jacket and matching thick-rimmed glasses – was candid and reflective, touching on everything from being caught off-guard when he was traded to San Diego midway through the 2007 season to earning a Pro Bowl selection during Nick Saban’s lone tumultuous year in South Florida.

After presenting DolfansNYC with two of our extremely humbling three Webby Awards and obliging every photo- and autograph-seeker following the ceremony, No. 84 graciously took time out to look back on his career highlights, express his appreciation for Dolphins fans on the road and much more in a one-on-one interview.

Looking back on your six-and-a-half-year Dolphins tenure, what were some of your favorite memories?

“There are so many moments. The Dallas Cowboys game (on Nov. 27, 2003), being able to score three touchdowns. Jay Fiedler and I both got the Turkey Award there, (but) I gave it to him though because he was the older guy. Now, I (tell him), ‘I want my award back!’ It was cool at the time.

“My first touchdown against Indianapolis (on Nov. 11, 2001), Jay threw a beautiful ball to me, and I caught it, 60 yards (downfield). I ended up getting my second touchdown in the same game.

“And then the Buffalo Bills game (on Dec. 4, 2005), where I set the Dolphins record for receiving yards and catches. That was a game that was very bleak at halftime, and then enter Sage Rosenfels, and it was bombs away!

“Those games have been outstanding, and I can’t wait to continue to look back and watch some of those games, and show my son and some of his peers what his dad did when he was on the field.”

That was an incredible Dolphins comeback against Buffalo. Do your franchise records still stand?

“Brian Hartline broke (the receiving yards record), actually (on Oct. 30, 2012), and I was kind of crying a little bit. [Laughs] But he’s a good receiver, and I don’t see anyone touching that for quite some time. We’ll see how (long the record stands).”

You caught passes from 10 different quarterbacks in Miami. What kind of impact did the ‘quarterback carousel,’ as you’ve called it, have on your game?

“You know, you kind of got used to it after a while. We never had that one guy who was the quarterback here – (whom) you started with here, continued to play with and grew with. That’s what made it difficult, when you’d have to have a different guy (frequently). I remember us having a left-handed guy, then we had another righty, and then a guy who was a little more mobile.

“I called it a lot of guys on (ends) of their careers, like Daunte Culpepper, who wasn’t healthy. Gus Frerotte – he had gray hairs, for God’s sake! Guys like that, they went out there and did what they did, and I had some good seasons, but once I got with a more stable quarterback (with the Chargers), that’s when I was able to take off a little bit.”

Who were some players you admired growing up and modeled your own game after?

“Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, I was a huge Ohio State fan, so, Terry Glenn and Joey Galloway (were my role models). If you see a lot of my plays, you see me diving and stuff, I got that from Terry Glenn.

“I was a die-hard Cleveland Browns fan, with Webster Slaughter, Eric Metcalf and those guys. They were really good – they had Bernie Kosar and The Dawg Pound – and that’s what really ignited me as a youngster to play football. To be able to have that (experience) and know that today, kids really look up to us, it really is something special.”

When you first entered the NFL, were there any veterans who took you in and served as role models?

“Absolutely – Sam Madison, Terrell Buckley, James McKnight, who was already a receiver here. He was one guy I really looked up to (because) he was a really good route runner, a very positive guy, a very clean guy.

“I just kind of jumped in, and once the guys saw my athletic ability on the first day of camp, guys received me even though I was kind of there to, at some point, take their jobs. They did an excellent job of supporting me and showing me the ropes.”

You recently had a chance to serve on the Dolphins coaching staff during training camp and help some of the younger players. How much did you enjoy that experience?

“I was an intern, so I didn’t know what I was going to do. I didn’t know if I was going to be stapling papers or whatever, but when I went in there, I knew a lot about this offense already, because a lot of plays that Norv (Turner) ran were similar to Bill Lazor’s. We were all on board and they really respected my knowledge. Every time I spoke in the receiving room, the guys paid attention to me.”

Do you plan to pursue a full-time coaching gig in the future?

“It’s just something that I wanted to do. I don’t know if I’m ever going to become a full-time coach, but I love the flexibility to come out here and help the guys, and see the guys go on their way. It really brought me closer to this organization again, because I didn’t know anybody but the snapper, (John Denney). He was the only guy who was here when I was here. Now that I know some of the players’ faces, had some conversations with them, it meant the world to me, and I think the Dolphins should continue to do that with some of their former players.”

Finally, DolfansNYC will have as many as 1,000 fans cheering on the team when the Dolphins visit the Jets at MetLife Stadium on Dec. 1. As a player, how did it feel when you’d walk into opposing stadiums and see aqua and orange in the stands?

“It felt so good! I think we have some of the best fans in the NFL – we always have. To come to New York – when you have your Fire Marshall on one side and have (Dolphins fans) rooting – it was just an outstanding feeling. Knowing you can come into a stadium and you see Dolphins tents and you see Dolphins tailgates, for the home team, it’s kind of intimidating, and it lets you know that the support is huge.

“I just want the Dolphins fans to continue to support us. I think we’ll have a very good team this year and (fans) will be able to get behind us.”

For more Chris Chambers check out his non-profit foundation Catch 84 and his South Florida training facility The Chamber.

Brandon Fields: We Hear You

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

199 DolfansNYC members piled into MetLife Stadium on Oct. 28, 2012 and cheered, chanted and sang the team’s fight song as the Dolphins cruised to a 30-9 victory over the Jets.

The group’s spirited celebration was not only heard by dejected home fans throughout the stadium and clearly audible during the television broadcast, but left a lasting impression on Dolphins players.

Dolphins punter Brandon Fields (left) and long snapper John Denney address fans at Web Weekend on Oct. 19.

“Oh, yeah!” said Miami punter Brandon Fields with a smile when I asked him about hearing Dolphins fans in the stands at N.J.

“When we’re up there, we usually have a pretty good presence – especially when we’re winning, doing well up there, you can definitely hear them, definitely getting loud. It’s something that (we), as players, love hearing.”

Fields grew even more excited when I told him that he and his teammates would hear over 550 DolfansNYC fans on Dec. 1 – a record for largest fan group to ever invade MetLife, and a number that has since grown to a staggering 760.

“It means a lot,” said No. 2. “It’s amazing when you go to an opposing team’s stadium and you see your own fans getting loud, cheering for you (and) rooting the team on. You draw energy from that, and the fact that you quiet their fans down.”

Come Sunday, Jets players and fans alike won’t know what hit them.

Copyright 2010-2019 Driven By Boredom Productions. All Rights Reserved.