A third teammate walked past with a
Louis Vuitton suitcase trailing behind
when someone complained about how cold
it was in the dressing room, and about
how Cameron Wake should be used to it,
given the fact he was Canadian.
“No,” Wake said, his breath visible as he spoke, “I was an ‘import’ up here.”
The dressing room door was open because the Miami Dolphins were filing outside to the team bus idling in the runway at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Wake had taken his time getting dressed and was slow to join his teammates, which is really the story of his career in the National Football League.
Wake was an import once because he was an American playing in the Canadian Football League. That is where he landed after slipping through the player-personnel files of every team in the NFL, and it was there, with the B.C. Lions, where he became a star.
He was named the CFL’s outstanding defensive player in both of the seasons he spent in Vancouver, in 2007 and in 2008. Wake dominated the line of scrimmage and, by 2009, he was gone, snatched by the Dolphins, who gave him a US$1-million signing bonus.
Wake went to the Pro Bowl last season.
“I kind of went through the back door, the back road to where I’m standing,” he said at his stall on Sunday, after helping Miami beat the Buffalo Bills. “There were no bells and whistles, no silver spoon or big contract. None of that. I came out, worked, scratched and clawed and every day I fight for this opportunity.”
He had a sack on the fourth play from
scrimmage on Sunday, dropping Bills
quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick for a
10-yard loss. He finished tied with a
game-high six tackles as the Dolphins
earned a 30-23 win to lift themselves
out of last place in the AFC East.
Wake is playing through the four-year, US$4.9-million deal he signed after leaving the Lions, but he has not lost touch with his former team. He said a handful of Lions players visited Miami after their Grey Cup win last month, and said he has been in contact with new head coach Mike Benevides, who was
|Cameron Wake||Penn St.|
defensive co-ordinator when Wake patrolled the line in Vancouver.
“I congratulated him and he congratulated me on the success we’ve had,” Wake said with a smile. “Those guys had an amazing, amazing run. I kind of followed it behind the scenes, but my hat’s off to those guys. I’m so proud of them.”
He also had praise for Wally Buono, who handed the reins over to Benevides by retiring as a head coach after the Lions beat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for the CFL title.
“How else to do it, but on the way
out, on top of everything?” Wake
asked. “Obviously, (Buono’s) the guy
who gave me my opportunity to get back
into football. I probably wouldn’t be
standing here right now without him.
And coach (Benevides) was a humongous
part of my success while I was up
there, and seeing him take over the
head coaching job, it’s good things
Wake plays outside linebacker in Miami, where he has a team-leading 7.5 sacks in his third full season. He was fined US$15,000 for a hit on Oakland Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer earlier this month – almost as much as the bonus paid to Lions players for winning the Grey Cup last month ($16,000).
“I think he’s enjoying himself in Miami, but there’s probably a little special part of his heart set aside for Canada,” veteran Dolphins linebacker Jason Taylor said. “He talks about it quite often.”
Has the time he has spent in the NFL
provided any further perspective on
how Wake might have slipped under the
“It happens all the time,” Taylor said. “It’s not an exact science and personnel guys aren’t the end-all, be-all. Unfortunately, he had to take a tough route to get here, but we’re glad he’s here. And he’s very, very deserving of being here – and there’s a lot of guys that he should have been here in front of, but he never let that get him down.”