By: Jason Sarney
Football is a game of analytics, historical and statistical facts, which leads to never quite accurate prognostication and prediction. With so many individuals these days having the ability to look at film, analyze stats and make predictions, there are anomalies and curious cases all over the NFL. There happens to be a cluster of interesting cases in areas such as South Florida currently.
The Curious Case of Nik Needham has been a roller-coaster and movie all tied into one, while being strapped up to an EKG machine. The path of Nik Needham has been discussed several times, and a lot of those times the inception of that conversation has been from yours truly.
(Below Tweet from July 2019)
To truly understand the development and maturation of number 40, you have to go back to the beginning, and while he may have been a young boy growing up in California, he was already forced to become a man during his childhood.
The backstory has been written and told and I will not dwell on it for this piece; what I will do however, is point out just how resilient, dedicated, and hungry this young man is. Almost as if he was a savvy veteran who has been in the NFL for close to a decade, although he has not even accumulated a full NFL season in games “started” at the moment. Needham has started in 15 games in his season and a half as a NFL pro, and appeared in 21 games. 12 as a rookie, so he has not even played a start to finish full NFL campaign.
He is growing. And so is the coach’s confidence in him, evident by him being Miami’s third leading cornerback in terms of usage in the snap count department. Yet, even as recently as last month, this was no certainty.
The trials and tribulations faced by Needham is nothing short inspirational and remarkable when you think about all the hurdles he has had to jump over. Hurdles leaped before getting his hands on an intended ball for an all pro receiver like we saw against Keenan Allen on Sunday. And lest we forget the first quarter, first series, tone-setting sack on Chargers quarterback, Justin Herbert.
Not only didn’t Needham help in shutting down Allen before a garbage time fourth quarter touchdown, there was zero surprise here, as Needham has trained against Allen for years as Steve Calhoun, Nik‘s Father, is Keenan’s personal wide receiver coach, and runs the Armed and Dangerous football camp out West.
It’s almost like Nik Needham was supposed to happen. Sometimes things just need time to mature and grow, regardless of the age and experience and past.
As stated, even at this point last season in an article written during an interview with Shannon Needham, Nik’s Mother, it became extremely evident that he was born to do this.
The passion, pride, and practice habits of this young man will only prove to be profitable, as there is no doubt in my mind he will be rewarded very soon for his contributions, his attitude, and his work ethic. Not to mention his on field production which over the last month has been stellar in the slot corner position.
Needham Is developing into a viable slot-man in a secondary with two other islands on the boundaries in Xavien Howard and Byron Jones. Nik has even held off 1st-round rookie and freak athlete, cornerback Noah Igbinoghene, who Miami selected in the NFL Draft this past April. Needham never wavered and once again kept to his family mantra, “Keep Grinding.”
In 2020, Needham has a pair of passes defended, a sack, 38 total tackles (23 solo), a tackle for loss, and a QB hit. Also, as a consummate teammate, keep an eye out for teammates giving others praise and props during big plays. It seems Needham is always the first to congratulate, celebrate or reward others for their play.
Against the Rams, Christian Wilkins intercepted a Jared Goff pass, ran a tad, and was downed only to get up without the ball and start his dance. Needham immediately scooped up the ball, and handed it to his teammate, almost like he instinctively knew to get his guy his first NFL interception ball. Nik put the ball right in Wilkins' gut as if a perfect hand-off to a fullback.
What a guy.
Needham, as young as he is, yet with the maturity of a full-grown man, is now a solidified fan favorite. The train is filling up of supporters and the first-class section of early adopters are fine with as many passengers as can be. After all, now it seems regardless of anything else, this train is heading to one destination and one goal.
And Nik Needham, has a heckuva lot to do with this journey. Because when it comes to a hard road traveled, not many have endured more mileage than #40. He deserves his seat.
Needham and the 6-3 Dolphins look for six wins in a row this Sunday when they face the 3-6 Denver Broncos on the road.
You can follow Jason on Twitter @OrangeAquaman and on YouTube on The PhinManiacs Channel