Head coach Adam Gase made it clear last season and this offseason that he is looking for players who will go the extra mile to be great players, which all ties in to the "culture change" story that has surrounded the organization since the purging of some of the Dolphins' best players, such as Ndamukong Suh, Jarvis Landry, and Mike Pouncey.
So now the team has brought in players who are textbook examples of professional football players, players like Danny Amendola and Frank Gore who put more time and effort into preparation than most of their peers in the league.
And that's also a big reason why they drafted safety Minkah Fitzpatrick out of Alabama with the 11th overall pick of the 2018 NFL draft. His preparation was second to none in college, and he even went as far as to show up to games up to six hours early just so he could sit down and watch film.
“I thought that was a common practice that people did." Fitzpatrick said on Friday. "I thought that people just watched film before the games. I would either watch it in my hotel room on the iPad or I would go in before meetings and just watch film in the meeting rooms, just breaking down some small stuff, going over formations, going over different plays and stuff like that. I just assumed everybody did (that).”
That alone is telling of Fitzpatrick's attitude towards preparation. It's as natural to him as breathing, which means by now he's already started studying and looking at what he'll be needing to do as a member of the Miami Dolphins. His personal background was filled with adversity and heartache, and he knows more than anyone what it means to overcome expectations.
Now as a member of the Miami Dolphins, Fitzpatrick has already been told by the coaches what he needs to do.
“Just to start off and keep learning the defensive backfield," Fitzpatrick said. "Whether it be at the nickel spot or the safety spot. They’re just making calls to make sure I’m learning the defense and whatever happens, happens.”
Versatility is a big part of Fitzpatrick's game; he acted as a Swiss army knife (a very sharp one at that) for Nick Saban in Alabama, and the way he approaches the game even led to Saban doing something he very rarely does: giving out compliments.
“It’s a major compliment coming from him. Like you said, he doesn’t give them out often." Fitzpatrick said. "He’s had a lot of great players come underneath him and he hasn’t said too much about them so when you receive a compliment from him, it means a lot. I’m honored to have played for him. I learned a lot from him. I’ve just got to live up to his compliments. I can’t let it get to my head. I’ve just got to keep on pushing forward, receive it, and that’s it.”
Fitzpatrick joins a secondary that includes veteran safeties Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald, as well as other young players like cornerbacks Xavien Howard, Tony Lippett, Cordrea Tankersley, Bobby McCain, Walt Aikens, Torry McTyer, and fellow draft pick Cornell Armstrong.
But Fitzpatrick wants to do more than just be part of the crowd, he wants to be great, he wants to be one of the best there ever was. Now wearing #29 - which once belonged to former Dolphins legend Sam Madison - he'll have high expectations placed on him, he knows what he'll have to do to make that statement come true, and he's going to do it for his family.
"I’m definitely going to purchase a home for my family – a home that’s going to be their home that can’t be taken away from them and can’t be whatever." Fitzpatrick said. "It’s going to be their home. It’s going to just be awesome being able to provide them; but being in the NFL wasn’t the end goal. I wanted to be a great player in the NFL, a legendary player in the NFL. I’ve made it to this part of the journey but there’s a whole lot more left to go.
"If you’re going to be great, you’ve always got to do extra. There’s no extraordinary without extra. This is just what I’ve always done.”
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
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