There’s a part of me that really wants the Miami Dolphins to draft Taco Charlton.
It’s the silly part of me, of course, because even though this guy is an athletic defensive end and could probably tell some great Jim Harbaugh stories from his career at Michigan, it’s that name Taco that is the most attractive factor.
The Detroit News ran a story saying that his mother and grandmother decided to give him that tasty nickname at a young age for reasons that apparently got lost in family history. Charlton’s given name is Vidauntae, and apparently he has no problem superseding it, or supersizing it, or whatever.
The Dolphins have had plenty of Smith’s on their roster through the years. Thirteen, to be exact. There have been just as many Moore’s. Good, solid names, but what would be wrong with a little Taco time just to spice things up?
Got me thinking about some of the great names in Dolphins history. Here’s a quick list in alphabetical order, with some fantastic talents and some merely fantastic sounds. One thing is for sure. If all of these guys ever were on the same roster at the same time, that would be the most popular team in the NFL, hands down.
Karim Abdul-Jabbar, RB, 1996-99
Tyler Clutts, FB, 2013
Kirby Dar Dar, WR, 1995-98
Mark Super Duper, WR, 1982-92 (Had the middle name legally added in 1995)
Samkon Gado, RB, 2007
African Grant, S, 1990
Gator Hoskins, TE, 2014
Richie Incognito, G, 2010-13
Cory Lekkerkerker, T, 2007
Wahoo McDaniel, LB, 1966-68
Mercury Morris, RB, 1969-75
Lousaka Polite, FB, 2008-10
Jake Stoneburner, TE, 2015
Ndamukong Suh, DT, 2015-present
Garo Yepremian, K, 1970-78
Not meaning to make light at any of these men. On the contrary, I’m a bit jealous.
When you’ve got a tag like Dave George, all first names and nothing flashy, a little bit of excitement goes a long way.
Because of that, I’ve been thinking of switching my byline to “He Hate Me,” just for a few days, but not sure anyone would get the old XFL reference, or that the bank would cash a paycheck made out to that name.
It made me real nervous in 2012 when the Miami Dolphins spent the No. 8 overall draft pick on Ryan Tannehill, a guy who had started just 19 games at quarterback in college.
Now there’s a guy with fewer college starts, 13, who could go even higher to some NFL team on Thursday night.
Mitch Trubisky of North Carolina might just be that good. In the one game I saw him play live, the Tar Heels’ 20-13 October win over Miami at Hard Rock Stadium, he looked like a natural fit for the pro game.
He threw 46 passes against the Hurricanes that day and got sacked just once, casually stepping or rolling out of trouble on several occasions while keeping his focus downfield and delivering the ball with such uncanny accuracy that the Tar Heels converted 14-of-23 third downs.
Trubisky threw a couple of touchdown passes against Miami, too. Each of those came on third-and-goal, and one of them came with 18 seconds left in the first half.
Getting touchdowns and not field goals in situations like that is the sign of a decisive, intelligent quarterback and in this case it made the difference between North Carolina upsetting the Hurricanes or letting them off the hook.
Oh, and Trubisky is sturdy at 6-feet-3 and 222 pounds. That doesn’t hurt, either.
Throw in a sensational career ratio of 41 touchdown passes to only 10 interceptions and a 67.5 completion percentage and you’ve got a quarterback who might go to the Browns or the 49ers or the Jets at the top of the first round, possibly ahead of Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, whose touchdown pass with 1 second remaining beat Alabama in January’s national championship game, and ahead of Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer, too.
If that happens, Larry Fedora won’t be looking too sharp. He’s the North Carolina coach who liked another of his quarterbacks, Marquise Williams, a little bit more and made Trubisky wait until his junior season to become the starter.
Of course, college stats and fluid college situations don’t tell everything we need to know about a pro prospect.
Dan Fouts, for instance, threw 37 touchdown passes and 54 interceptions during his college career at Oregon.
Dan Marino was close to a wash with 79 touchdowns throws and 69 interceptions at Pitt.
Joe Montana threw 25 of each at Notre Dame.
Last, Tim Tebow was an absolute stats machine at Florida, throwing 88 touchdown passes and only 16 interceptons.
Trubisky doesn’t look exactly like any of those guys, but if he winds up with a decent team in a trade-down and not one of the pitiful outfits at the top of the draft, he could become a real star.
Think of Aaron Rodgers, who got just 22 college starts at California. He came there as a junior-college transfer who had received no major-college scholarships coming out of high school. Still, Rodgers decided to forego his senior season in college, just like Trubisky did, and wound up going 24th overall to the Green Bay Packers, a team that was set at quarterback with Brett Favre and could afford to work with the kid a while.
It’s a fantasy to think that the Dolphins, drafting 22nd overall in Thursday night’s draft, might get a similar chance to draft a talent like Trubisky.
If by some miracle, however, he fell that far, or even came close enough to make a draft-day trade feasible, Miami would be foolish not to take him. Can’t have too many quarterbacks on your roster with the potential to be great.
Tannehill’s potential will be played out in the next few years, it appears, and he’s coming off the first serious injury of his career.
Weird that I would be more excited about taking a quarterback with 13 college starts than I was about Tannehill with his 19 but, hey, people keep telling me that I’m a little weird to begin with.
What a shame it would be if Brad Kaaya doesn’t go high in the NFL draft after skipping what would have been his senior season at Miami.
Sure, it would be tough on Brad, the Hurricanes’ all-time leader in passing yards and completions, but consider the continued indecision about his replacement in Coral Gables.
Mark Richt can’t name a starter coming out of the spring practice sessions and both Malik Rosier and Evan Shirreffs have been around long enough to show what they can do. Meanhwhile, top recruit N’Kosi Perry, a beanpole at 6-feet-4 and 178 pounds, doesn’t arrive on campus until next month.
Kaaya may not have had the kind of blockbuster junior season that would have catapulted him into obvious first-round draft territory but he did throw 27 touchdown passes with just seven interceptions. That’s high efficiency, and it figures that he and Richt would have gotten more comfortable with each other if given another season to work together.
As it was, Kaaya got sacked way too much (25 times) which was partly the fault of Miami’s offensive line and partly his own. His footwork and his decision-making need to speed up before some NFL team is going to go crazy over him.
Depending on what you read in the pre-draft speculation chatter, Kaaya could slip all the way to the third-day developmental class, or some team might want to take him as high as the second or third round to school behind a certain starter.
Never that easy figuring out who should go and should stay. NFL scouts aren’t as adamant as they used to be about looking for quarterbacks from a pro-style offense, which diminishes any supposed bonus points that Kaaya might have earned at Miami. Also, there’s a drive to start first-round quarterbacks right away as NFL rookies, another relatively new trend, and Kaaya isn’t ready for that.
Overall, would staying with the Hurricanes for his senior season have gained Miami a few more victories in 2017 and pushed Kaaya significantly higher in next year’s NFL draft?
I’ll say yes to the first question and no to the second.
AUGUSTA, Ga. – What would you do if the wonder of a Masters tournament pass came your way? For most first-timers there is a list of things to do, and William McGirt, a contender to win after rounds of 69 and 73, has checked every box.
Come out early on Thursday morning to watch Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player hit the ceremonial opening tee shots? McGirt, who qualified to play in his first Masters with a victory in the Memorial last summer, was there.
“There was never any question that I was going to be there,” said McGirt, who is 37 and as wide-eyed here this week as any kid outside the ropes. “I don’t care if I was two groups later off the tee, I was going to go watch it. We were right at the entrance to the tee box at the back. I figured if I wasn’t supposed to be there, somebody would tell me, but it was fine, so everybody came right by us and left right by us.”
McGirt came early to Augusta National to soak it all in, arriving on Friday. Given the chance, would you race straight to the merchandise shop as soon as it opened to buy shirts and caps and anything else with a Masters logo? Yeah, McGirt did that.
“AMEX is going to be very happy to have me as a customer,” he said.
And how about that initial drive on tree-lined Magnolia Lane to the clubhouse. OK, none of us will ever get to do that, but McGirt, a mini-tour struggler through much of his career, never thought he would either, so let’s ride along with him.
“One of the most sacred drives in the game,” he said. “Honestly, the first time I made that trip, by myself, I’m pretty sure I teared up about halfway down.”
Too sappy? Oh, come on, you’re loving it. Here’s some more from a guy who is so humble that he described his game to the world’s golf media Thursday as “sneaky short.”
McGirt, for instance, got emotional when he stepped to the first tee on Thursday morning prior to shooting a 69 that was the only score within shouting range of Charley Hoffman’s 65.
“When I heard ‘Fore, please, William McGirt now driving,’ I almost shed a tear,” he said, “but I realized I had to get up there and I had 40 seconds to hit it, so I better get it done quick.”
He parred that first hole and birdied the next. Matter of fact, McGirt had just one bogey all day, on No. 3. In 30-40 mph gusts, that is remarkable, and it follows the native South Carolinian’s pattern of playing his own game and not trying to chase the longer hitters.
“I know what my limitations are,” McGirt said. “I’m not the guy that’s going to stand out there and try to hit it over the trees on 13…I kind of plod my way around the course and take what it gives me.”
What it’s giving him so far is the kind of thrill he could only get at Augusta National.
“It’s kind of neat to hang around late in the afternoons and walk out on the porch outside the locker room and watch as everybody’s leaving,” he said. “I think that’s one of the most beautiful sunsets. And the same thing with the morning sunrise. To sit out there on that porch and watch the sun come up is pretty darn special.”
[McGirt actually attended the Masters a few times in his youth but didn’t step on the course other than the way other patrons do, when using the crosswalks on the fairways. His first memory here was 1988, the year Sandy Lyle won.
“I remember it was super hilly,” said McGirt, who was 8 at the time. “We watched Mr. Palmer and Mr. Nicklaus come up 18, and I remember there was a guy who was at least 6-feet-6 who put me on his shoulders so I could watch Greg Norman tee off on No. 1. Other than that, I remember I was dead tired when we got in the car to go home.”
Whether he stays near the top of the leaderboard this weekend or falls off the map, it probably will be the same way. McGirt is giving it everything he’s got, inside the ropes, with great shots like his hole-out from the bunker at No. 4 on Friday morning, and out.
“I don’t know if this is a one-time thing or if I’m going to be back every year,” he said. “I’d love to be back every year but I’m not going to walk away and say, ‘Gosh, I wish I would have enjoyed it more or I wish I would have doine this or I wish I would have done that.’
“It’s just something that I’ve dreamed of my whole life, playing in this tournament, and I’m going to enjoy it. Plain and simple.”
If you can’t root for a guy like this, you’re probably not following and watching the Masters in the first place.
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Bad backs are commonplace on the PGA Tour but repetition of the golf swing is the usual culprit. Dustin Johnson’s fall on Wednesday afternoon in Augusta is so different that nobody knew what to expect right up until the moment that the world’s No. 1 player walked off the first tee as a last-second withdrawal.
About an hour prior to his 2:03 p.m. tee time, the last of the day, Johnson started warming up on the practice range with the Golf Channel broadcasting every swing live. It was a long drama with a dud of an ending, and great disappointment for DJ and his fans and the tournament.
Jack Nicklaus spoke early Thursday morning about the uncertainty of back injuries and how they get into a player’s mind. Not just the pain, but the anxiety over how the body will react during any particular swing. As it was, Johnson had his caddy teeing balls for him on the practice range so that he wouldn’t have to constantly do the bending.
Nicklaus only withdrew from two tournaments in his PGA Tour career. One was at the Masters, when back spasms caused him to drop out just prior to his second-round tee time in 1983. The other was at the World Series of Golf in Akron in 1981. That time Nicklaus, who was in third place heading into the final round, dropped to his knees on the practice tee and had to be helped off.
“We all have injuries,” Nicklaus said. “You go through them. I don’t know how many times, lifting the suitcase into the trunk, you pull a rib and you’re sore for about two weeks. Let’s just play through it.”
Gary Player said “Hundreds of times in life, in my 64 years as a pro, players arrived with bad injuries and they played.”
Naturally, Player turned it up a notch with his storytelling, jumping up from the interview table to demonstrate how he once hurt himself during a South Africa tournament doing squats. Oh, and by the way, he was while holding a friend on his back at the time.
“Man, he was fat,” Player said of the friend, “or, should I say, I was weak.”
Johnson slipped on some wet wooden stairs Wednesday while heading out of the garage to move a car. He was wearing socks and no shoes.
DJ came to the Masters on a three-tournament win streak.
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Arnold Palmer, a four-time Masters winner, played his last competitive round in the tournament in 2004. Still, he remains a focal point for players and Augusta National members this week, a great star who died in September at 87 while awaiting heart surgery, a great man who embraced the traditions of this unique major with joy and respect.
Here is what Jack Nicklaus said about Arnie on Tuesday afternoon, sharing just a few of the many stories he could tell about his long-time friend and rival.
“I don’t know how many people realize how much Arnold took me under his wing when I was 20, 22 years old,” said Nicklaus, whose first professional victory as an 18-hole playoff win over Palmer at the 1962 U.S. Open.
“In spite of having a gallery that wasn’t so good to me, I may have had to fight Arnold’s gallery but I n ever had to fight him. He was very kind to a young guy starting out. I appreciated it very much.”
Nicklaus said it was Palmer who taught him always to drop a note to tournament officials and sponsors as an expression of thanks, and Jack also spoke of the friendship that his wife Barbara had with Arnie’s first wife Winnie during their many travels together.
“Barbara said that she thought Winnie handled her life, Arnold’s life and their life better than anybody that she had ever seen,” Nicklaus said. “Winnie said, ‘Well, on Tuesday, if I got mad at Arnold, I would be afraid to say anything because I was afraid of ruining his game. And then when Sunday night rolled around and I could say something, I forgot what I was mad at him about.’ “
Masters chairman Billy Payne described Palmer as golf’s “preeminent hero” and announced that all visitors to Thursday’s opening round at the Masters will be handed a commemorative badge to wear in honor of the King.
The badge, with the official Masters logo in the middle, reads “I am a member of ‘Arnie’s Army.’
Palmer was in the Masters field 50 times. The only player with more Masters starts is Gary Player with 52.
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Tiger Woods isn’t playing this week and Danny Willett, the defending Masters champion, is not really playing well enough right now to be a major threat to repeat. Makes it tougher to predict who will be the sensational international headline at Augusta National this time around, but I’ll take a stab at it anyway.
Take a look at Jon Rahm, the rookie from Spain with the mammoth distance off the tee and the confidence to contend in his first Masters.
He’s all of 22 but that shouldn’t disqualify him. Tiger and Jordan Spieth both were 21 when they got their first green jackets. Rahm was the low amateur at his first U.S. Open, just like Tiger was the low amateur at his first Masters.
Besides, Rahm already has a victory on the PGA Tour this year, and he got it in dramatic fashion, making a 60-foot eagle putt on the final hole to win the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in January.
More recently, at the WGC Match Play event in Texas, Rahm reached the championship match against world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. The match started badly, with Rahm 5 down very early, but he rallied to push it all the way to the 18th green before losing 1 down.
“Once I got back in the groove,” Rahm said Tuesday at Augusta National, “I learned that when I’m playing good, I can take on the No. 1 player in the world.”
That boldness, the kind once displayed by Rahm’s golfing hero Seve Ballesteros, is bound to make a difference in the Masters, a tournament marked by great risks and great rewards.
“I’m going to tee it up believing that I can win,” said Rahm, who played a practice round Tuesday with Phil Mickelson. “I might do it. I might now but that’s how I do it. That’s what I did at Torrey Pines.”
Still looking for a good reason to believe in Rahm, whose college coach at Arizona State was Lefty’s brother Tim Mickelson? How about this?
Rahm accelerated his mastery of English by absorbing and repeating the lyrics of rap songs by Eminem and Kendrick Lamar.
“It was not necessarily to learn new words but to help with pronunciation and enunciation and to able to pronounce certain words and be able to talk faster, without pausing,” Rahm said. “It really helped me out to be able to keep up with some conversations.”
The kid’s a fast learner, and he doesn’t mind trying new things, like trying to be the first player since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 to win the Masters on his first visit here.
Rahm tees off Thursday at 1:41 p.m. with Rory McIlroy and Hideto Tanihara, a 14-time winner on the Japan Golf Tour and a semifinalist at the recent WGC Match Play event.
If you’re wondering why a rookie rates such a feature pairing, Rahm has risen to No. 12 in the Official World Golf Rankings, just behind Sergio Garcia and ahead of Masters champions Willett, Mickelson and Bubba Watson.