Back in February on a makeshift practice field adjacent to I-595, wide receiver Ryan Spadola sweated and soaked in the instruction from former Miami Dolphins wide receiver Chris Chambers. Now he’s putting on the Dolphins colors as a member of the practice squad.
Spadola is still reeling from the crazy journey he has taken since finishing his college career at Lehigh University. It’s a journey that took him from New Jersey down to Davie, then up to Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine, back to New Jersey after being signed by the New York Jets as an undrafted free agent and now back in Davie just a few minutes down the road from The Chamber where he trained.
“It’s crazy how it’s all come together,” said Spadola, who became a fan favorite with the Jets in the preseason. “It’s really more like two full circles because it started for me up in New Jersey where I’m from and where I went to college, continued down here with Chris, and then I thought it was ending back in New Jersey with the Jets. But as a rookie I’m learning about the business side of professional football.”
It didn’t take long for Spadola to catch the attention of Jets head coach Rex Ryan and the Jets faithful as he caught three passes for 110 yards and a touchdown in his team’s 24-21 overtime victory over the New York Giants in the preseason. His 22-yard scoring reception put the Jets ahead, 21-18, and then he caught a 70-yard bomb from Matt Simms, son of former Giants quarterback Phil Simms, to send up the game-winning field goal.
By the end of the preseason, Spadola had reeled in 13 passes for 216 yards and the one touchdown and was drawing comparisons to another Jets receiving legend that went undrafted, Wayne Chrebet. He survived the final cuts to make the 53-man roster and was active for three of the first four games before being waived two days before New York’s Monday Night game at Atlanta. The Jets were hoping to bring him back on their practice squad after he cleared waivers but Miami pounced.
“There was just a lot of stuff going on that weekend and I understand they had to make those changes,” Spadola said. “At the time I was doing what’s best for my career. I didn’t know what was going to happen with the Jets, if there was going to be a spot left for me or not. Before I came down here I was told originally there wasn’t going to be a spot because of injuries that happened the prior week, and once I signed and landed here that’s when they told me there was a spot for me. So there was some miscommunication there but that’s in the past and I’m moving on, trying to get myself better and do whatever I can to try and help this team.”
Even though he trained in the South Florida heat with Chambers, a second-round pick of the Dolphins back in 2001, Spadola wasn’t ready for the heat on his first two days. He described it as a 30-degree increase in temperature and the combination of getting his body to adjust while learning a new offense is providing a challenge.
The Dolphins put Spadola in the locker right next to veteran wide receiver
“It’s definitely different and there’s still a lot of the terminology of the offense I have to pick up and understand in terms of the mental game,” Spadola said. “The tempo’s also different so I’m getting adjusted to that but that will come with time and practice and in terms of the guys, they’re great and I look forward to learning from some of these guys. There are a lot of veterans and playmakers so I hope to just follow in their footsteps and develop as a receiver.”
THROWBACK TUESDAY SONG SELECTION
For the first time this season, the Dolphins stretched to four different songs, although it quickly became apparent that the players wanted nothing to do with the first one. Shannon’s “Electric Slide,” the 1980s dance hit that became a staple at weddings, started things off and the riff did not last long, giving way to “My Type of Party,” by Dom Kennedy. That was followed by Eazy E and Bone Thug ‘N Harmony’s “For Tha Love Of $,” with “Polo And Shell Tops,” by Meek Mill closing it out.
THE LAST WORD
“I thought we used to practice pretty hard anyway but it was just guys’ mindset just like the Baltimore game was an automatic in terms of just get your mind right that you’re going to have to hit somebody or you’re going to get hit. It’s going to amp up but I think we practice pretty hard already. So it’s just more of a mental thing because it’s a division game and there’s just even more emphasis on every play. You know these guys are going to be a little feistier because we play them twice a year and they’re going to try to set the tone since this is the first time we play them. I think both teams are going to go out and try to set the tone and let them know what they’re going to do in the division this year.” – wide receiver Mike Wallace on his first AFC East division game against Buffalo as a member of the Dolphins compared to when he was with Pittsburgh in the AFC North