Back in 2015, the Miami Dolphins used their first round pick on a promising young talent named DeVante Parker out of Louisville, with the intention of turning him into their true number one wide receiver. In his two years with the team, the official game logs state that he's only missed three games in his whole career.
Yet the number one concern regarding Parker as of now is his apparent inability to stay healthy.
Going into his third season, the 24-year old Parker has suffered from foot and hamstring injuries that have limited him on the football field and kept him from becoming the player everyone hoped he would, only making 82 catches for a total of 1,238 yards and seven touchdowns in his two years in the NFL.
Those stats are not particularly impressive for a player who was being touted as a potential superstar, and the young receiver has been called out for his overall lack of NFL discipline in his everyday life by his coaches in the past.
Now, however, we are hearing a different tune from the Miami Dolphins coaching staff. Offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen spoke nearly two weeks ago on the change he's seen recently in Parker.
“The great thing is we’re seeing what we were hoping to see, and that’s A) a healthy DeVante Parker – he is running probably better than I’ve seen him run since I’ve been here – and a hungry DeVante Parker." he said. "I think he has been around a lot more than last year. He is practicing hard."
Nearly two weeks later, Parker himself commented on what Christensen said about what he's seen regarding his "hunger."
"He's not lying to you."
Parker spoke to the media on Friday morning at the Fins Weekend golf tournament about his injury history and what it's meant for him. To put it bluntly, he's tired of being hurt, and he's made some significant changes to his offseason routine.
"I'm just tired of being hurt and not healthy a full season, expect some big changes this year." he said. "I'm eating a lot better, sleeping better ... I'm just really focused on legwork, leg workouts now mainly. I still do upper body, but I just want to do legs to get my hamstrings right for this season."
Parker went on to say that he's taking on a bigger workload on his legs now than he used to in the past, all in an effort to make sure he's healthy and won't be hindered by those nagging injuries that have held him back. It's been a long and frustrating road for Parker, but now it looks like things are finally, truly, changing.
"Been injured the whole time I've been here basically," Parker said. "Finally coming in this year, just coming in with a different approach."
Parker's talent has never been in question, it's always been his durability and his maturity. Now that it seems both of those problems are being dealt with - without extra prompting or hand-holding by the coaches, the time may have finally come for the former Louisville standout to reach his full potential, like coach Christensen says he expects in 2017.
"We need him to be a big play, No. 1 receiver. That’s what he has the potential to be." Christensen said. "I really think he’ll have a great, big year – a gigantic year for us. That would be huge."
And how does Parker feel about what was said?
“It's a good thing to hear from him, I just gotta keep working, keep at it.”
That is the attitude of an NFL star in the making.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
Latest Dolphins News