Hey, I’m not above myself to point out a really good article when I read one. Though sometimes rare in mainstream media that cover local sports, it always seems to me that the Sun-Sentinel and The Palm Beach Post just continue to do very good jobs. Today, I happened upon this little gem from Ethan J. Skolnick over at the SS. What a fun read that gives you a glance into the real life of an NFL rookie. In this case, Kendal Langford and Phillip Merling. The Miami Dolphins rookie bookend DE’s.
You can read the article in full here.
As rookies, you don’t have much choice. The veterans want food for the plane, you buy food for the plane. Yet you do it begrudgingly, and you bring the bare minimum.
Unless you are the defensive linemen the Dolphins drafted in the second and third rounds.
“[Phillip] Merling and [Kendall] Langford come with a tray of like 80 pieces of chicken,” veteran linebacker Reggie Torbor says. “And we’re like, ‘What the hell are we supposed to do with all this chicken?’ But they don’t care. They are just happy to be here. You want chicken, they go get chicken. You want doughnuts, they go get doughnuts.”
Merling and Langford have brought more to the Dolphins than food for flights and meetings. The training camp and road roommates have brought innocence and exuberance to the locker room, and energy and athleticism to the field.“It’s like they are still in college,” Torbor says. “It’s a good thing. The longer you are in the league, you learn more about the business … but they don’t know. They think it’s just football. They just go full speed every play, they are laughing and smiling.”
They are contributing in the defensive line rotation. Langford has eight tackles, two sacks and one knockdown. Merling has nine tackles and one sack. Tony Sparano lauded their play in the victory against New England, calling them “pain in the necks.”
Merling wears No. 97. Langford wears No. 70. Langford is two inches taller, but both list at 290 pounds. Off the field, they are somewhat more distinguishable.
Veteran defensive tackle Jason Ferguson recently dubbed them “Salt and Pepa.”
Which is which?
“Hmm,” says Langford, grinning.
He has the darker complexion. Other differences? Langford is from Virginia, Merling from Tennessee. Langford attended a much smaller college, which Merling never ceases to mention.
“Especially when we’re watching college football on TV, and I’m like, ‘Where’s Hampton?’” says Merling, a Clemson product.
Still, they have developed mutual respect. Merling likes the way Langford “attacks people, he’s just real physical.” Langford admires the way Merling plays low and with leverage. Both have long-term individual goals; Langford aspires to make “a good number of Pro Bowls” and Merling hopes to earn “the respect of all the linemen that I go against” for his passion. Already, each has heard praise from competitors.
Both cook a little, but not for each other.
“We’re tight, but no,” Langford says.
Both can take a joke.
Good thing, too. Told that Merling has proclaimed himself a freestyle rapper, Ferguson is skeptical, “Rapping? Maybe poeming. Not rapping.”
Told that Langford is regarded as a sharp dresser, Ferguson snaps, “If you want to see a big guy with tight shirts, tight jeans, that’s probably going to be Langford. He dresses like a little dude.”
Of their food-fetching skills, Ferguson remarks, “They missed a couple of weeks with the breakfasts, but they are good now.”
Ferguson says he kids because he cares; he’s trying to make them feel like family. He was immediately impressed with their work ethic and their willingness to seek and take instruction. Ferguson recognized Merling was more athletic than Langford, and Langford better with his hands-on initial contact. He just wanted to see both with “the lights on,” especially because Merling sometimes seems in the dark in Davie.