Time to get down and dirty. As we continue to countdown the roster, we move from the pass-catchers of the 80’s to some of the men up front. Get in your three-point stance and wrap your knuckles, let’s meet the men of the 70’s…
#79: Ikaika Alama-Francis: Without a doubt, Francis has one of the most fascinating back stories on this team: His father Joe was Bart Starr’s backup for the Packers during the early parts of his career and was part of Vince Lombari’s first Packers team in 1959. Originally a second round draft choice of the Lions in 2007, the younger Francis was released in late 2009 and signed by the Fins, though he was not active for any of the six games in which he was a member of the team. He began his collegiate career as a basketball walk-on at Hawaii before trying out for the football team and earning a scholarship.
#78 Tony McDaniel: A second year Dolphin, McDaniel had an active 2009, as he played in all 16 games for the first time in his NFL career. Acquired from the Jaguars for a seventh round pick last March, the defensive tackle recorded 16 tackles and a sack and a half with the Fins and will work to make a name for himself during camp this year as he looks to increase his time on the field.
#77 Jake Long: One of the two bookends on the offensive line, the Fins’ starting left tackle comes into his third NFL season after being the #1 overall selection in the 2008 draft. Already a two-time Pro Bowler, Long was selected to start the game last season and is expected to anchor one of the strongest units on the team for the Dolphins in 2010. Last season, the Fins had the fourth best rushing attack in the league and once again fans should expect to see Long and friends clearing the way for the ground game. And like any left tackle, Long will be highly responsible for protecting the backside of his quarterback. Unless Pat White is in the game, in which case Long will be protecting the frontside. But that’s neither here nor there. He is very important and, lucky for us, he is also very, very good.
#76 Lydon Murtha: Originally a seventh round draft pick by the Lions in 2009, Murtha was signed by the Dolphins off of Detroit’s practice squad last October. Last season, he got onto the field once with Miami, and was eventually placed on injured reserve in December after suffering an ankle injury in practice. An offensive tackle, Murtha was born in Homestead, but grew up in Minnesota and attended the University of Nebraska.
#75 Nate Garner: The 6’7 Garner is part of a four-man scramble for two open guard spots on the offensive line, which will absolutely be one of the most interesting battles of training camp. Along with Richie Incognito, Donald Thomas, and Cory Procter, Garner is looking to impress the coaches enough to make the move into the starting lineup. One of the most versatile lineman the Dolphins have, Garner played tackle, guard, center, and even tight end (in goal line formations) for the Fins last season. You also have to figure he takes particular enjoyment in the success of the Wildcat offense, having been part of current Dolphins QB Coach David Lee’s Wild Hog at Arkansas.
#74 John Jerry: Another offensive lineman, Jerry was the Fins third round selection in this April’s draft after starting 46 of the 49 games he played in during his collegiate career at Mississippi. I wouldn’t be surprised at all for Jerry to push for consideration at left guard and there’s no doubt that he could see significant playing time there in the future. A two-time All-SEC performer, Jerry’s brother and former college teammate Peria was a first-round choice of the Falcons in 2009 and picked up one of his two tackles last year in the season opener against the Fins.
#72 Vernon Carey: While there is high drama on the interior of the offensive line, the starting tackle spots are well taken care of, with Long on the left and Carey on the right. Now in his seventh year out of Miami, Carey has started every game since 2006 and has played in every game since 2005. A first round selection in 2004, Carey is the rare star athlete who has gotten to play his pro, college, and high school (Northwestern) ball all in the same city. Highly visible in the community, Carey grew up across the street from where Sun Life Stadium now sits and was able to watch the construction take place in the late 1980’s.
#71 Lionel Dotson: Back to defense with Dotson, a third year defensive end out of Arizona. A seventh round pick by the Dolphins in ’08, Dotson appeared in two games each of the last two seasons after starting 32 of the 40 games he played in with the Wildcats. Outside of football, Dotson is one of the most accomplished men on the roster, as he is an Eagle Scout, which is the highest attainable ranking in the Boy Scouting program of the Boy Scouts of America.
#70: Kendall Langford: We’ll finish off the 70’s with another defensive end. A third round choice by the Fins in the 2008 draft, Langford has played in all 32 games of his professional career and has started 27 times. A Virginia native, Langford attended Hampton University, which was recently named the top Division I HBCU athletics program in the nation. Last season Langford picked up career-highs in tackles (43) and sacks (2.5) as he looks to take another step forward in his third year as a pro. Connected to football since he took his very first breath, Kendall’s father had to rush home from a Super Bowl XX party to help his mother get to the hospital and give birth.
So that takes care of the 70’s. It’ll be more of the same tomorrow, as we dig into the 60’s and learn some more about some of the big training camp battles on this team–particularly on the interior of the offensive line.
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