In the first episode of "Hard Knocks", HBO's Fly-on-the-Wall documentary inside NFL Training Camps, we met Derek Dennis. A rookie offensive linemen who joined the Miami Dolphins after going undrafted from Temple University, Dennis was the first player featured as he arrived for his first NFL training camp. Despite his excitement, and eagerness to show what he can do, Dennis' time in Miami looked like it would be tough even before we reached the opening credits. Derek was kind enough to take some time out to answer some Qs for TPL about his experience in Miami, and about his future career in the NFL. We don't want to ruin it for you if you haven't seen Hard Knocks Ep 1 yet, but be warned, this interview contains spoilers!
The Pulling Linemen: For those that have seen the opening episode of the new season of Hard Knocks, they will know you as pretty much the opening face of the series. Did you know you would be featured so heavily in the first episode?
Derek Dennis: I had no idea but I look at it as a blessing cause now people know my face and can connect with me and my journey through the NFLTPL: You arrived in Miami after a stellar career at Temple University, where you played in 40 games for the Owls including starting 25 over your last 2 years. What are your favourite memories of your time at Temple?
DD: I miss everything about temple the time with my brothers (teammates) is the biggest thing. Playing for a program that went from the bottom to the top was such an intense struggle and to see where we are now I was blessed to have the opportunity to help rebuild a program plus I got to play in an NFL stadium every SaturdayTPL: You were invited to play in the East-West Shrine Game, a showcase event that in the past has showed off future stars like Tom Brady, Brett Favre and John Elway. What was the experience of playing in this game like?
DD: It was great biggest part of the event was visiting Shriners Hospital and spending time with the kids and families. I enjoyed myself, it was a plus to play football with some of the best college talent around the country.
TPL: Coming out of college before the draft, did you get a lot of interest from NFL teams? Did the Dolphins, or your current team, the Patriots, express an interest in you?
DD: I spoke with a lot of teams, honestly the teams I heard from the most where neither of the teams I play(ed) for so just went to show you never know what to expect
TPL: You went undrafted in the 2012 draft, but a number of experts highlighted you as a priority free agent - how quickly did your phone start ringing after the draft was done? What was it that made you choose Miami as your team?
DD: My phone actually started ringing way before draft even ended. I was supposed to sign with Carolina at first but my agent felt like Miami was a better situation for me. I trusted his word.
TPL: For those yet to see the opening Hard Knocks episode, this question comes with a spoiler alert! How disappointed were you when Jeff Ireland and Coach Philbin visited with you to let you know you were going to be cut before you'd made it to your first team practice?
DD: I was just disappointed I didn't get a shot to prove myself but I understand the NFL is a business first so I accepted the decision.TPL: About a week later, you were signed by the Patriots. What was your life like in that week? Were you fielding lots of offers? Trying out for many teams? Did you ever feel like maybe your chance in the NFL was over before it had even started?
DD: Well I actually only spent the weekend home then I had a few workouts starting that Monday to Wednesday after and I was signed that Thursday. So it happened pretty quickly.TPL: How was your first NFL practice with the Patriots? Did they throw you in at the deep end and get you working hard straight away? Are there any other OL, either rookies or vets, who've helped you to get set up in New England? Or are they too busy hazing you?
DD: No, the first week was cool. NFL has a 3 day acclimation period rule so I was eased into it. No hazing here in New England.
TPL: As you battle for a spot on the Patriots final 53 man roster, what do you think you can bring to the NFL? What makes you stand out from the other rookies in camp that might give you that place on the roster?
DD: I think I offer to the NFL a prototypical offensive lineman with good athleticism. I'm smart, strong, versatile, and coachable
TPL: Finally, if there's only one thing you could tell the NFL and Patriots fans out there about yourself that you want them to know, what would it be?
DD: That I appreciate the love and support that people have given me and I'm ready to work hard and do whatever a team needs and asks of me to help win - whatever that role may be.TPL: Thanks again for helping us out Derek, and good luck with Patriots camp.
You can follow Derek on twitter @6bonecrusher3, and make sure to keep an eye on him throughout Patriots camp. We hope to see him on the final 53 man roster when Week 1 rolls round!
- Phil Gaskin (@sosayitisaid)
- The Pulling Linemen