You would think a team with such lousy injury luck as the Dolphins, a team that has struggled recently on both sides of the ball, a team whose starting quarterback has missed the last five games, might have little to be thankful for.
But that’s not the case this Thanksgiving morning.
In fact, considering everything mentioned above, the Dolphins probably should be most thankful to be 5-5 right now with a path clearly laid out in front of them to get where they want to go. Teams that endure what the Dolphins have been through usually don’t find themselves in this position with six games remaining.
But it’s not only that. Up and down this roster there are feel good stories, reasons to smile today between bites of your turkey and stuffing and certainly reasons to be thankful.
- There’s Frank Gore who has finally come home, even on the tail end of a Hall of Fame bound career still breaking tackles, punishing defenders and putting up statistics that defy logic for a 35-year-old man. If you can’t be thankful for Frank Gore, who can you be?
- There’s Cam Wake who is closing in on 100 career sacks and at 36 years old embraces every moment like it could be his last. His diet? His dedication? His desire? We should all be thankful he came our way.
- There’s Kenny Stills who spends almost every off day out in the community, offering guidance to youngsters, wisdom to the troubled and a friendly smile to those in need of just that. Every player gives to some extent. Few give as much as Stills.
- There’s wide receiver Albert Wilson who has devoted his life to helping foster care children and who comes across with the sincerity and caring of someone who has walked in those shoes, which he has.
- There’s a young group of players who have formed the nucleus of this team, players like Xavien Howard, Kenyan Drake, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Jakeem Grant and Bobby McCain, who each has served notice in the present of what’s in store for the future.
- There’s the untapped potential of players like tight end Mike Gesicki and linebackers Raekwon McMillan and Jerome Baker who have each given us glimpses of what they can do only to increase the intrigue of what they could do.
- There’s two young kickers – placekicker Jason Sanders and punter Matt Haack – who literally seem to have a foothold on their jobs for years to come. Check out the struggles of kickers around the league. You’ll appreciate these two even more.
- There’s guard Jesse Davis, a story of perseverance, a player who wasn’t drafted and who fought his way from the bottom of this depth chart to a starting spot at right offensive guard. Got a feeling he’s going to be there awhile too.
- There’s Danny Amendola, the consummate pro, a locker room leader, a clutch receiver and a player as grit tough as you’ll find. Did I mention he also throws a mean cross-the-field spiral?
Indeed, it is a day to appreciate what you have instead of bemoaning what you don’t.
So enjoy your turkey, save room for some pumpkin pie and, before you take that last bite, allow me to conclude this column with a very special Thanksgiving memory.
Twenty-five Thanksgivings ago I was in Dallas and witnessed one of the most improbable endings, the Dolphins pulling out a last second 16-14 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on a final play field goal by Pete Stoyanovich.
But it was the sequence of events that led up to that kick that made it so improbable and that caused then Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson to call it “one of the worst losses of my coaching career.”
Do you remember how it unfolded? Fifteen seconds left. Stoyanovich’s game-winning attempt from 43 yards out is blocked. The ball is rolling around helplessly on the frozen field like a spinning top when, inexplicably, Dallas defensive end Leon Lett tries to pick it and then fumbles it away.
The ball is recovered at the 1-yard line by Dolphins’ offensive lineman Jeff Dellenbach with a single precious second left, which is all Stoyanovich needed to seal the deal with a chip shot from 19 yards out.
That victory raised the Dolphins record to 9-2 but as history confirms they would not win another game that season, losing their final five. The Cowboys, meanwhile, never lost another game, eventually winning the Super Bowl.
But nothing that happened after could take away from the memory of that remarkable finish, the celebration that ensued, that unforgettable eerie quiet in the stadium and that look of total disbelief on Jimmy Johnson’s face. Can never remember having a more enjoyable Thanksgiving dinner than on that team plane ride home.