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The Monster In The Middle

Posted Jul 23, 2012

The way Paul Soliai sees it, he’s got a good thing going with the Miami Dolphins. And he plans on enjoying the ride as long as he can.

That’s why you saw a smile on Paul Soliai’s face as he worked out with his teammates this offseason. He wasn’t quite sure what would happen this spring after he became a free agent, letting his agent deal with the business side of things.

He did have one request, though: Keep me in Miami if at all possible.

“This was somewhere I wanted to be at,” Soliai said. “It was somewhere where I started, so might as well finish my career here. I love being here. I love everybody here. I’m just happy to be back.”

Asked what it is about the Dolphins and South Florida that he particularly likes, Soliai talked about loyalty.

“I’m more of a guy that they gave me (a) chance to be in the NFL,” Soliai said. “They drafted me. I had a rough rookie year, but them sticking by me, look where I am now. I’m just thankful and hoping to do more for this organization.”

Soliai has done plenty for the Dolphins the last couple of seasons, to the point where he has now established himself as one of the top defensive tackles in the entire league.

It took a few seasons for Soliai to be able to make an impact in the NFL, but it’s hard to find a better run stopper anywhere these days.

Soliai’s ability is starting to get noticed, too, the proof coming when he became a late addition to the 2012 Pro Bowl.

For Soliai, making the Pro Bowl was significant for several reasons. Beyond the football aspect, it also gave him a chance to play in front of family members from his native American Samoa.

“It was really big,” Soliai said. “I have a lot of family that flew, came to watch me. It was something big. I was almost close to home, just playing there. I used to work for some of the Pro Bowl teams when I was young. So actually being there, playing in it, it was a big shock and good for me and my family.”

Not surprisingly, Soliai was hit up for tickets to the game.

“A lot,” he replied. “I got a lot of tickets. My wife did all the tickets. Just being there the whole week and enjoying all the activities and being with them was good for me and my family.”

A few weeks after the Pro Bowl, though, Soliai faced some uncertainty because of his free agent status.

It wasn’t as though Soliai needed to worry about getting offers because run stoppers are hard to find, especially athletically gifted 345-pounders in their prime at 28 years old.

But there was some question as to whether the Dolphins would have the financial flexibility to keep their 2007 fourth-round pick.

“It’s a business thing, so I didn’t really know what could happen,” Soliai said. “The year I was a free agent when I got franchised, I just let my agent handle everything. I really don’t say anything. I just tell my agent whatever he feels comfortable with me signing, I sign.”

With Soliai back in the fold, there’s reason to expect the Dolphins to once again excel at stopping the run.

There has been talk of the team using more of a four-man front under new defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle, but regardless of how the Dolphins line up, Soliai once again will be right there in the middle of the line doing what he does best.

“I’m still there,” he said. “My main priority is stopping the run, playing nose. There’s a lot of movement in there. I really don’t compare last year, this year. This year we’ve just to keep on moving.

“We can be really good. We’ve just got to pick up where we left off last year. We’ve just got to keep going, making plays, and hopefully do better than last year.”

For his part, Soliai is just happy to once again be a part of the Dolphins defense.

Before signing his new contract with the Dolphins, he was scheduled to take a flight to Denver to meet with the Broncos, but he’s glad he never got on that plane.

As he put it: “Me coming back, signing here was something I always wanted.”

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