Never Give Up: Why Cameron Wake Will Always Be the Player of A Generation

As a young Dolphins fan, I did not see Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas, or Dan Marino in their primes. When I was falling in love with the Miami Dolphins, I was watching Cameron Wake. As we all know, Wake tore his Achilles tendon in the Thursday Night Football game against the New England Patriots. His future with the Miami Dolphins is now uncertain, as he enters a critical point in his contract and will attempt to rehab from a devastating injury.

Here are my thoughts on Cameron Wake, and why he will always be the first-favorite player for a generation of Dolphins fans.

“With the first overall pick, the San Francisco 49ers select, Alex Smith, quarterback, Utah.”

“With the seventh overall pick, the Minnesota Vikings select, Troy Williamson, wide receiver, South Carolina.”

“With the two-hundred and fifty fifth overall pick, the New England Patriots select, Andy Stokes, tight end, William Penn University.”

The 2005 Draft came and went without Penn State linebacker Derek “Cameron” Wake hearing his name called.

The New York Giants signed him as an undrafted free agent, only to cut him before he could play in a regular season game.

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Wake would not give up.

He was signed to the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League, and worked as a trainer at an LA Fitness to make money and continue to improve himself physically in hopes of reaching the NFL. His efforts were rewarded in Canada, as he was named the rookie of the year as well as a two-time all-star and defensive player of the year.

When the NFL came calling, following the 2008 CFL season, Wake had his choice of teams. The Rams, Saints, Bills, and Vikings worked him out, as he became one of the most highly touted free agents to come from the CFL. Oh, and that team down in Miami gave him a shot too.

While the challenge would be great, Cameron Wake was up for the work. He put in the time in the weight room, watched film, and became an instant success in the NFL. He had his first multi-sack game in his first start, and has since become the Dolphins’ second all-time leading pass rusher with 70 career sacks.

The story seems too good to be true. If it were a movie script, you wouldn’t believe it. Wake has been a force for the Miami Dolphins since signing with the team, and his story is as inspirational as any in the NFL.

I am 19-years old. I was too young to watch Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas in their golden years, and never got to see Dan Marino play in a game. When I was falling in love with the Miami Dolphins, Cameron Wake was the player I tuned in to see every week. On teams that lacked confidence and identity, Wake’s signature sack dance provided a sensation that fans had been searching for on the Dolphins for many years: swagger. 

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He dominates not through pure physical ability, but through work ethic and determination. Not only does he have unrivaled athleticism, but he also possesses a drive and passion that you rarely see. The cliché of being the first one inside of the building and the last one out of it? It isn’t a cliché for Wake. It is a way of life.

Some players make an impact on the field in the NFL but have a checkered off-field life, making it difficult to root for them. Cameron Wake makes it amazingly easy to root for him.

Wake has always been a leader in the locker room. When he speaks, players listen. You do not simply earn this role through seniority. You earn the status of a leader by being an exemplary player not only on game days, but also off of the field and during practices.

Even when Wake has been surrounded by subpar talent and underachieving teams, his will has never faltered. He does not know what “slowing down” means. He has never complained about his absence of playoff games (he has never played in one), or the constant changes in coaching and scheme that have forced him into multiple positions.

We saw Wake’s exemplary drive and determination last Thursday night on a specific play against the Patriots.

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Wake was rushing the passer, and seemed to suffer an injury. He did not go to the ground immediately upon feeling the rush of pain in his leg. He kept pushing and fighting to get to Tom Brady, only going to the ground when he had finished the play.

He did not give up.

When Wake went down, he looked very relaxed. His facial expression was flat, and he did not seem to be in substantial pain. Most believed it was a simple cramp, or a sprain of a muscle. Then, the unfortunate reality set in as a cart drove our star-defender to the locker room.

Concerns mounted as the prognosis for Wake’s left leg injury worsened, until the diagnosis was confirmed Friday Morning.

Torn Achilles tendon. Out of the season.

This moment was heartbreaking. The feeling that comes after losing a game pales in comparison to what many Dolphins fans are experiencing with the loss of Cameron Wake. For those like me who grew up idolizing Wake, he was super man. He was never humanized because he never gave us a reason to think that he was human. He works harder than everyone else, plays better than everyone else, and is the definition of a franchise player.

(Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

(Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Seeing a player like Cameron Wake suddenly humanized is very, very difficult.

Unfortunately, the NFL is a business. Cameron Wake’s future with the Miami Dolphins is now incredibly murky. Despite his years of outstanding play for the team, Wake could be released by the Miami Dolphins this offseason due to his contract situation.

Nothing would be more painful than to see Wake leave Miami due to contract and salary cap concerns. The reasoning is easy to understand, but it doesn’t make the pill any less tough to swallow.

I was not deeply connected to Jason Taylor as a player growing up, as I simply missed his prime, but I can imagine seeing Wake play for another team would be like watching Taylor suit up in Washington or New York. Heart breaking.

Please notice that I did not cite Cameron Wake’s recovery as a potential reason for his future with Miami being in question.

He has never given up.

When has Wake backed down from a challenge? When he has displayed an unwillingness to work? When has he showed any sings of being willing to let anything stand between himself and his goals? Never.

While it doesn’t make watching him go down with a devastating injury any less painful, he will be back. Cameron Wake will return, and whether it is with the Miami Dolphins or not, he will have success thanks to his work ethic and drive.

Cameron Wake is the player of my generation. When the Miami Dolphins’ prospects were bleak, Wake was able to shine. He gave us a reason to watch every Sunday. Wake is not done, and he will attack this like he has attacked every obstacle in his career. He will attack it like he attacked being undrafted. He will attack it like he attacked being cut by the Giants. He will attack it like he did trying to be a personal trainer and make it in professional football. He will attack it like he did the transition from the CFL to the NFL.

And that is why Cameron Wake will always be the favorite player of a generation.

He will never give up.

So neither will we.

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