AC In The AM: Mentoring A Big Part Of This Team


Laremy Tunsil has Josh Sitton.

Minkah Fitzpatrick has Reshad Jones.

Kenyan Drake has Frank Gore.

Charles Harris has Robert Quinn and Cam Wake.

Jakeem Grant has Danny Amendola.

The list goes on and on.

We're talking about mentors here. Older, more experienced players who unload their vast reservoir of knowledge on eager-to-learn teammates. We see these relationships sprout every season. It just seems like this season, with all the young players on this Dolphins' roster, the number is even greater.

And that's good.

And important.

And a way for this team and, especially these young players, to get better in a hurry.

It's also important that the mentors are willing to give of themselves and that's clearly the case with this roster as well.

Look at Frank Gore for instance. He's going to the Hall of Fame someday. He'll likely move into fourth place this season on the NFL's all-time rushing list. You think third-year running back Kenyan Drake can learn from Gore? How about rookie running back Kalen Ballage? I mean Gore knows secrets that could take Drake years to learn. Now, he gets a crash course just about every day. Invaluable.

These young players learn by listening and watching and asking the types of questions that we probably can't even begin to fathom. They learn in the quiet of the meeting room or on a walk to the parking lot. They learn things that not even their coaches can teach them.

Look at Charles Harris, a second-year defensive end. How fortunate is he to have a pair of mentors like Quinn and Wake? Together they have combined for 154 ½ career sacks. Think of all the tricks of the trade Quinn and Wake have come up with over the years. Think what that could mean to Harris' development.

"It means everything," Harris said.

Cam Wake had Jason Taylor. Now Harris has Wake. It's a cycle, a cycle that has so much to do with success in this league.

Look at Jakeem Grant. He has a new mentor this year, an old friend. Danny Amendola. They both attended Texas Tech. "A brotherhood," Grant calls it. But Amendola is entering his 10th season; Grant only his third. "I pick his brain every single chance I get," said Grant. And Amendola, as any fellow Red Raider would do, is happy to oblige. Invaluable.

How about what a crafty veteran like Sitton can do for Tunsil on the left side of the offensive line or what a Pro Bowler like Jones can do to help No. 1 pick Fitzpatrick hasten his trajectory? We talk so much about the importance of coaching; we tend to forget that sometimes it's a teammate doing the coaching.

I recently asked Offensive Coordinator Dowell Loggains and Defensive Coordinator Matt Burke to put in perspective the value of mentoring and how it can help the growth of this team. How it can help them as coaches. Their answers were very telling.

Burke: "Sometimes they get sick of me and my screaming and yelling and throwing things, so at some point my message probably gets stale. So it always helps to have that reinforcement. I do believe it's a player's league. Those guys see things out there. I mean, I learn from veteran players as much as other players. I'm always asking, 'Hey, what'd you see here?' or 'Why'd you do that?' It's a different perspective. I know there's always that fine line where there's competition, but it's also teammates and we're trying to get each other better.

"It's funny, when you start looking, we don't have a lot of old guys on our defense. But we've got a handful of guys that have played a lot of football, and they've been good about trying to work with the other guys. It's a different voice, a different perspective and sometimes they can see things and relate in a way that I can't all the time. So it's definitely helpful."

Loggains: "I think it's a part of every good football team. (Adam) Gase and the coaching staff can only do so much and peer accountability is more important than anything. When it becomes their team, then we'll be a good football team. Every good football team I've been a part of, the difference was the veterans on the team. They created a culture in the locker room and they held people to the standard and the accountability that needs to take place to win.

"(One day last week) we didn't have the best practice offensively. We just didn't have the urgency that we needed. It starts to create sloppiness. The message to all of those – (Daniel) Kilgore, (Danny) Amendola, (Ryan) Tannenhill, (Josh) Sitton, (Frank) Gore is that we can say it as much as we want, but until it becomes your football team and you guys hold these young players to a standard, all we're going to do is talk about it. We can't go on the field and affect change like you guys can. And that's why Coach Gase did what he did. He built the team he wanted to coach."

And that team is filled with a bunch of veterans who have embraced the importance of mentoring and who understand the affect it can have on the won-loss record. Invaluable indeed.

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