For starters, he’s having to adapt to the infamous South Florida heat and humidity.
“Guys have said I haven’t seen anything yet,” said Messam, who grew up in Toronto. “So when July and August comes around, that’s when I get the real test.”
The Dolphins, of course, already have a significant contributor, Cameron Wake, who made the jump from Canada. Having a teammate who has successfully made the move to the NFL could ease the transition for Messam, who’s played his played his entire career north of the border. When he arrived at the team’s offseason workouts, Wake had some advice for the big bruiser.
“He just said work hard and approach every day like it’s your last,” Messam said. “Just keep a good work ethic and things will work out.”
The CFL isn’t radically different than American football both schematically and conceptually, but there are subtle differences, most notably the size of the field. Since there’s more area to spread out the defense, teams rely heavily on the passing game, making Messam’s production really stand out. He said, though, that he has yet to play in a West Coast offense like the one that Joe Philbin and Mike Sherman are installing in Miami.
“They different have concepts up north, but I’m grasping the playbook pretty well,” said Messam, who was named the 2011 CFL’s Most Outstanding Canadian. “There’s a lot to digest with all the different plays and signals that we’ve got to learn. We’re not really doing much play-calling, per se, it’s all signals.”
At 6-4, 245 pounds, Messam is certainly larger than the prototypical running back–he’s played halfback his entire career–but he feels he maintains some of the dynamic skills of a smaller, shiftier back. His size adds the versatility that Philbin seeks from running backs. He has been quick to point out that he likes to line running backs up at receiver to help create mismatches. Messam’s experience in the Edmonton Eskimos’ passing game could help him breakthrough the logjam at running back and help him earn playing time.
“I’m confident catching the ball with my hands, don’t use the body,” Messam said. “Whenever they need to use me in the offense to go out and run routes, I’m more than willing to do that and I’m confident in my ability.”
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