Vernon, now 21 and a member of Miami’s 2012 rookie class, remembers his experience at the team’s youth football camp in 2003 like it just happened. It was then that Vernon decided for himself that football and not soccer was going to be his passion and he planned his future.
“Actually, during my first week of OTAs last month that was going through my head,” said Vernon, a defensive end who was chosen in the third round of the NFL Draft by the Dolphins out of the University of Miami. “Where we have lunch now, that’s where I would eat lunch as a kid because that’s where we had the little snacks and stuff. Then they brought us into the team meeting room and we watched the season highlights of the Dolphins. What are the odds of me being in the team meeting room again as a Miami Dolphin?”
If the resume Vernon put together for a high school a project is any indication, he already was setting some favorable odds. His objective at the top of the page read, “To obtain a position in the National Football League.” Clearly a lofty goal to some at the time, but Vernon was serious.
The fact that he was named the MVP of the Dolphins football camp in that summer of 2003 added credence to Vernon’s vision, and that was the third consecutive summer he participated.
His father, Lascelles, was a soccer player back in his native Jamaica before an unfortunate accident ended his career in high school, so while initially he was saddened by his son’s choice to stop soccer for football, he had no doubt that Olivier would reach his goal.
“Anything he puts his mind to he always sees it through and he doesn’t like to lose,” Lascelles Vernon said. “He’s very competitive and that’s what he wanted to do since he was a kid. It was very exciting watching him at Dolphins camp and everyone was amazed at how fast he was and how much stamina he had. That came from soccer and he was excited to tour the facilities and meet the Dolphins players.”
Bernadette Vernon proudly displays the jerseys her son wore all those years ago in Davie, including one with former Dolphins quarterback Jay Fiedler’s autograph on the back among others. She also kept the autographed Dolphins football Olivier received for being named as the camp's MVP along with lots of photos of him and his friends practicing and playing.
After watching her son excel at soccer as well as an art student, Bernadette also was caught a little off guard about his newfound passion for football. He pursued it at Miami American High School and used the skills he learned at Dolphins Camp to get a leg up on the competition and his mother realized this would be his calling.
“He knew what he wanted do from the time he was in middle school and I saw how much fun he was having at that football camp,” said Bernadette, who got to watch Olivier play in the same stadium as the Dolphins with the Miami Hurricanes. “It’s incredible. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to remind me that it’s real and that my son who wrote on his resume that he was going to be in the NFL is there now.”
Vernon can laugh now about what he was like as a young camper taking instructions from former Dolphins and NFL players. Tonight he will actually experience a role reversal with the rest of the Dolphins rookies as the student will become the teacher at a special rookie clinic for kids. There is no doubt Vernon will enjoy sharing his story with them.
“If they ask me about what it was like I’ll enjoy doing that because kids look up to people like us at this level,” he said. “That’ll be fun if I can just let them know that dreams can come true and that I was sitting right where they were when I was their age dreaming about being here.”
Oliver Vernon’s dream started at the Dolphins Academy football camps 10 years ago, sign up today and maybe yours will start there as well. Go to www.dolphinsacademy.com or http://www.miamidolphins.com/finatics/fins-kids/youth-programs/spring-summer-camps.html.