AC in the AM: John Denney Approaches Impressive Milestone

Posted Oct 31, 2017

Only two players in the 52-year history of the Miami Dolphins have played in at least 200 games: Dan Marino and Jason Taylor.

It’s about to become three.

John Denney, in his 13th season as the team’s long-snapper, will reach 200 with Sunday’s game against the Oakland Raiders. Only in Denney’s case, he is the first player to do it in 200 consecutive games.

“Marino? Taylor? It’s weird to hear those names linked with mine,” Denney said, sitting by his locker after a recent practice. “I guess it means a bunch of different people believed in me.”

But it’s more than just that. It’s the consistency that Denney has shown and the good health that he has maintained. It’s the journey that began in September of 2005 when he beat out Ed Perry for the long-snapper job. Who could have imagined then that it would be Denney’s for so long? Certainly not Denney.

“It’s crazy I get paid to do this,” Denney says. “I guess you could say it’s just a byproduct of 200 smaller goals. I just go week to week, game to game, just doing my job.”

And doing it so well that you probably haven’t noticed John Denney, which is exactly the way he wants it. Can anybody tell me the last time Denney botched a snap? Has he ever botched a snap?

“If I have,” he says with a big grin, “I certainly wouldn’t tell you.”

See, that’s the secret to his longevity. He has never given the Dolphins reason to find someone else. We all saw that flubbed snap by the Falcons a few weeks ago, how the ball actually rolled to the punter, giving the Dolphins a huge advantage in field position. That’s when people notice. That’s when they question the guy snapping the ball.

“All snappers want to fly under the radar,” he says.

But 200 games? All in a row? “It’s like a dream,” Denney said, “and a great honor.”

Denney will be the first to remind you that his 200 came with much less stress than what Marino and Taylor endured. He figures he’s on the field for somewhere between eight and 10 snaps a game.

“I’m less exposed to injuries,” he says. “I’m a long-snapper.”

Then again, there was the time back in 2012 in a game against Arizona when Denney was hobbling around on a sore hamstring. He could hardly walk. The pain was considerable. But this former defensive end out of Brigham Young kept the injury to himself.

“I couldn't fight off blocks,” he said. “I couldn’t run.”

But he could snap. Could always snap, delivering that football to the punter and holder with the accuracy and the speed that has made him one of the best, if not the best, at his craft. Denney felt better the next week when he was back racing down the field, trying to make a tackle or even recover a fumble like he has done in his career against the Jets, Falcons and Broncos.

That day in Arizona was the last time he went into a game uncertain of what he could do. And that was five years ago. Today, Denney is the old man in the locker room at 38 years old, playing with a group of players, many of whom were nine or 10 years old when he first broke into the league. The father of five says he really doesn’t think much about his age until, that is, one of the younger players offers up a wise crack.

Then, he’ll just smile.

It is on the practice field standing off to the side with the kickers when his mind often wanders through the years, about all the games he has played and the coaches he has seen. He looks around. He feels the heat against his face and then he’ll close his eyes, hoping that when he opens them it hasn’t been just a dream after all.

“Sometimes I just stand there shaking my head,” he says.

The Dolphins brought in some competition at long snapper this summer. A pretty good prospect out of Mississippi State named Winston Chapman. But Denney prevailed. Doesn’t he always?

And now he finds himself at the doorstep of 200 games, joining Marino and Taylor in a very exclusive club. It’s just a round number, Denney will tell you. Not a whole lot different than 199 or 201. But then, just for a moment, you’ll see that smile crease his lips because deep down he knows that 200 is very special for what it represents and who he is sharing it with.

“I was just happy to make the team,” he recalls of his rookie season. “I never could have imagined it would have led to this.”

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