Cameron Wake is one of the most recognized players on the Miami Dolphins and for good reason. His work ethic and professionalism cannot be compared to anyone else and he has established himself on a different tier than every other player on the team. Some could argue that he has done that throughout the NFL as well. That’s why it was no surprise when he was named the Don Shula Leadership Award Winner by the local media.
“I can’t really put it into words, really humbling. I don’t really value too many people’s opinions outside of this locker room,” Wake said. “Obviously, you’ve got people from all types of areas of this country pointing fingers about what we have in this locker room. For the guys here to state their opinion, state their views about who you are, that’s what means the most to me. To have that from the guys you go to battle with every Sunday, it’s truly humbling and it’s a great feeling.”
“I feel like, again, once you sign up for this league, you have to have the confidence in yourself and the guys you play with when you go out there and step on the field. You’re going to have all kinds of Monday morning quarterbacks, and people that say so many things about who you are, what you do and what you shouldn’t have done outside of this group. I don’t concern myself with them, but to have the group of guys come in here every day, go to work hard, each and every one of us know what the other brings to the table and we respect each other. Like I said, when I have the guys in this locker room stand up and point at each other and say this is who we are, we’re a group that works hard and we’re a group that goes out every day and puts it all on the field.”
Wake said that being a captain is nothing new for him as that’s what he’s been going all the way back to his college days at Penn State. Over the years, he has learned that it starts off with respect and that you have to earn it both on and off the field in terms of preparation, going out there and playing and making sure the younger guys and even established veterans sees what it takes to win on the football field.
"There is no way you can hide, or act like I prepare well for games or I’m going to go hard anyway, that’s not something you can act in front of other football players. Maybe other venues or other areas where guys don’t know, but in this locker room, we spend 12 hours a day with each other. We all know each other pretty well. I just try to take each day as an opportunity to get better and I hope the guys around me can see that’s part of my gameplan. For the most part, if I can help anybody else as well, that’s something that I want to put as my outreach as well.”
Over the years, Wake has made an effort to become more vocal but he also noted that it’s part of the natural progression of establishing oneself in the NFL and becoming that veteran presence in the locker room.
“I think as you grow as a football player, that’s just something that happens. When you’re young, a young pup, you want to be seen, not heard, as a young rookie, just go out there and do your job. As you grow into your own, you start to see that there are guys that need your help, maybe need your direction, because you have stripes, you can pass them that wisdom. The same way when I was a young pup in the league, I had guys doing the same thing for me. Once you get that wisdom and you have an opportunity to pass it on to the younger guys and the leadership, whatever it may be, it just becomes part of the territory. Not only as a man, but as a football player.”
Joe Philbin said that Wake is well deserving of the award and has clearly established himself as one of the team's leaders.
“I think he’s been a little more outward. He’s always set a great example on the field. He’s always in shape. He’s always practicing hard. He’s always a guy who doesn’t want to take reps off in practice, but he’s also now from a communications standpoint taken another step forward in that area.”
With Wake climbing the ladder in the age category, some have questioned his future with the Dolphins. However, he brings something that can’t be stated in terms of the box scores and stats. Instead, it’s the off the field stuff that really makes an impact and the team would be foolish to let that piece of the foundation go to another NFL organization.
This story was written by Matthew Cannata. Follow him on Twitter: @PhinManiacs