This article and photo gallery is a behind-the-scenes look at the first “4 More On The Fins” series of player features which airs on CBS4 during halftime and post game of the Miami Dolphins preseason games.
By now, the story of his journey has been well documented, how he went from being undrafted out of Penn State to being out of football and working as a personal trainer before going to Canada, starring in the CFL and eventually becoming a success with the Miami Dolphins.
At the root of the story is Wake’s dedication to nutrition and fitness, a dedication that borders on fanatical.
And that certainly hasn’t changed now that Wake has firmly established himself as one of the top pass rushers in the NFL, a player good enough to be named by his peers as one of the league’s top 100 players three different times.
“Maybe if I was working in a different avenue or I took a different path in life, it wouldn’t be a big deal,” Wake explains. “But this is my vessel, this is how I make my money, how I make my living, how I achieve my goals. You have a Ferrari, you’re not going to just throw any kind of motor oil or anything in it, you’re going to find the best that you can find to make sure that engine runs to the peak performance. And I want to get the peak performance and cheeseburgers and potato chips and sodas, that’s not going to maximize my effort. I kind of cut out whatever I can that doesn’t translate into peak performance. Being my engine, I max out every time.”
While a bit small for his position by NFL standards, Wake is a powerhouse. He is, as the saying goes, cut and a running joke around his teammates is how much he likes to walk around without a shirt or with a half-shirt to show off an abdomen without even a hint of flabbiness.
This is a guy who, time and time again, answers the question about his favorite snack with grapes.
For Wake, it’s always been about making the sacrifices necessary to succeed, and that certainly hasn’t changed over the years.
“It’s funny how things kind of transition,” Wake says. “As I’ve gotten more wisdom in the game and some of the young guys are coming up to me and asking me, ‘Hey, what do you do in the offseason?’ Or, ‘What do you eat?’ (I’m) starting to kind of grab guys and say, listen, how badly do you want that interception? How badly do you want that sack or that touchdown? Is it worth not eating that cheeseburger and having a chicken sandwich or a salad? Instead of putting four hours into that video game, maybe playing for 30 minutes and going out and doing some extra running or studying on that playbook.
“Because it could be that one thing that you notice from your studies and your playbook or that one extra rep or that salad that gives you that one inch that creates that sack or that interception or that touchdown, (and) in this game you know that one inch, that one foot that you can gain can make a difference in the game and the difference in a season.”
Wake has made a significant difference since signing with the Dolphins in January of 2009.
He recorded 51.5 sacks in his first five seasons in the NFL, already putting him seventh on the Dolphins’ all-time list.
He also made the Pro Bowl three times in those five seasons, including 2013 when a knee injury limited him for a few games and even forced him to have to sit out a game for the first time in his career — he was inactive for his first two games in a Dolphins uniform, but that was because the coaches felt he wasn’t yet ready to help the defense.
“I probably would say last year might have been my toughest year I played so far,” Wake said. “Knock on wood, I’ve been blessed or fortunate, lucky, however you want to look at it, not to be injured. I’ve never really had to deal with anything. Football, I get hurt every game. Everybody gets hurt. But injuries, I’ve never had anything until (last) year.
“I noticed that it was a blessing and a curse at the same time to have the kind of mentality that I have, that I don’t care if I have one leg, I want to play. But then I have to say, hey, listen, maybe this is not the best thing to do. Maybe your backup can play better than you. Maybe for the team it’s best that you sit down, even though deep inside of you all I want to do is go out there and do whatever I can. There were games where I wasn’t up to par, to the normal Cameron Wake that most people have seen. Having said that, still being looked at as one of the premier guys in the league and being selected to the Pro Bowl was truly an honor.”
It was just more validation for the sacrifices he made in college when he gave up fast food, gave up parties and dedicated himself to doing everything he could to make himself a professional athlete.
But the work never ends. Wake has come too far to even think about starting to take it easy.
Besides, he actually enjoys that part of the job.
“I like it,” he says. “I like that and I actually love watching the results. I love going out there and putting an extra 5 pounds on that bench or that squat that last week I know I couldn’t do or running that gasser or that conditioning test knowing last week I came in 2 seconds later and I’m making progress. In my mind, I know every time I do that, that extra 5 pounds, that’s going to benefit me when the lights come on on Sunday.”