Offseason Has Already Made Misi A Changed Man

Posted Mar 25, 2013

Fourth-year linebacker got married and has a renewed focus.

Players entering their fourth season in the National Football League tend to be thought of as maturing veterans but with still plenty of room to grow. Miami Dolphins linebacker Koa Misi fits that mold – only now he has another notch in that maturity belt.

Misi married his longtime girlfriend, Lisa Johnson, in San Diego at the historic Hotel del Coronado on Coronado Island. He grew up in nearby Santa Rosa and played his high school football at Montgomery High, then moved onto Santa Rosa Junior College for two years (2005-06) before transferring to Utah.

The couple has put off the honeymoon for now so that Misi can get ready for the 2013 season and build on what was the best season of his career in 2012 in defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle’s 4-3 defense. He has an even more noticeable sense of calm about him now that he has entered the marriage ranks and is ready to show the critics that he can climb another rung of his potential ladder.

“I decided to come back, I needed to come back here and start training again after working out at a small gym in San Diego before and after the wedding,” Misi told “I’m working with a trainer up in the Boca area, it’s called Level 5 Fitness, and when I got the chance to pass rush last year it seemed different than previous years in the league. It just felt like it came more natural to me when I was in the game, but one thing this offseason I want to try to do better is be able to be faster in reading what I’m supposed to do.”

During his three years at Utah, Misi played more defensive end and had his hand in the ground the majority of the time. He was asked to make the transition to outside linebacker as a rookie in what was a 3-4 scheme for the Dolphins at the time and actually responded with 4.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries.

After starting 11 of 16 games in 2010, Misi took a small step backwards his second season and finished with just one sack and 34 tackles (26 solo) in 12 games with nine starts. A shoulder injury suffered against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 13 cut short his season and he landed on Injured Reserve nine days later. Misi bounced back last year to put up career-highs in tackles with 65 (50 solo) and added 3.5 sacks with a new Head Coach in Joe Philbin and new defensive coordinator in Coyle. 

“I still think that there’s a lot that I can improve on just to better myself as a player and help the team out, but I think last year was a big step for me in playing the position that they had asked me to play,” Misi said. “Hopefully, I can grow from what I learned last year and just be an all-around better player than I was last year. Just learning how to watch film and take that film to the game is something I also want to work on. Being able to know when you have a pulling guard and where you need to fit, that’s one of those things that come with experience and there are still a lot of things I need to work on during this offseason.”

Thanks to the flurry of moves the Dolphins made in the first week of free agency (free agency tracker), Misi also will need to learn the names and the nuances of his new teammates. The two veterans he lined up next to the previous two seasons – Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett – are gone and newcomers Dannell Ellerbe (highlights, interview) and Philip Wheeler (highlights, interview) took their place.

Once mini-camps, OTAs and then training camp get going, Misi will have a better idea of where he fits in with those two free agents in the defensive game plan and whether he can fall back on everything he grew comfortable with in 2012. Coyle’s system was new to him and all of the returning players from 2011 last year, but it isn’t anymore.

“As the season progressed, I felt more and more comfortable playing the position that I was playing,” said Misi, who at 6-foot-3 and 251 pounds is the ideal size for a linebacker or a rush defensive end. “We’re going to go back to camp and start all over again. It’s just going to come so much easier and I’ll be able to work on things that I know I was having problems with instead of having to learn a whole new position again. So I think it will be good this year.”

Misi will be kept busy enough in his new role as a husband, so any reprieve he can get at the office will be a welcome one.

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