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Jason Taylor currently owns the Dolphins team record for most consecutive games played at 130, but he’s not going to hold it for long. On the third week of this season, at home against Atlanta, John Denney will surpass Taylor as the most resilient player in team history.
And chances are, before he’s done playing, Denney is going to put a lot of distance between himself and Taylor.
When I asked Denney earlier this week about his impressive streak, about passing Taylor in the record books this season, he smiled and shrugged: “I had no idea.”
I guess that’s the way things are for a player who, without hesitation, admits, “I have the greatest job in the world.”
So you haven’t heard of Denney? You don’t know much about him?
Well, that’s easy to understand. Long-snappers don’t get many headlines and certainly don’t get many columns written about them. Especially a long snapper who botches a snap about once every three or four years.
But if you look closer at Denney, if you examine what he has done, you’ll find the longest tenured player by far on the Dolphins, a player who survived his way through four different head coaches and, through it all, never loses sight of how lucky he is to be a member of this exclusive fraternity.
“I wake up every day and I come to practice and I look at the building and I see those two Dolphin emblems on the building, it’s a dream; it’s still surreal,” Denney said. “Yes, I have the best job in the world. I get to be a part of the game I love. I get compensated nicely and I’m not exposed to injuries the way other guys are. I wake up the day after a game and my body isn’t sore.
“I still feel young. To be able to make through the many coaching changes here is something to be proud of.”
Four head coaches. Think about that. Four different systems. Four distinct personalities. Four chances for someone to come here and bring in their own long snapper. Denney talks about all four coaches like no other current player can.
• Nick Saban: “He’s the reason I got my foot in the door. I know the fan base in South Florida doesn’t favor him, but I can’t hate the guy. I was in the right place at the right time and Coach Saban gave me a shot.”
• Cam Cameron: “That was a quick year and, at the same time, the longest year of my life. Nobody ever wants to go through a season like that again.”
• Tony Sparano: “He’ll just grind you. He’s a yeller and a grinder. You come out to work, you do it his way, and you’re going to work hard.”
• Joe Philbin: “A real high character person. He’s a family man and you can tell he’s got high standards both on and off the field.”
Denney is the only player in this training camp not competing for a spot on this roster. He has made the team and, if there was any doubt, a fumble recovery last Friday in Jacksonville only underscored his versatility.
“I can’t look at it that way,” he said. “I’ve got to show up hungry every day. I guarantee you there is a big board in some office upstairs with the next 10 long snappers that are available. They can make a call and have the guy here in four hours. I’m always fighting for my job.”
The few botched snaps that have occurred over the past eight seasons are things that Denney tries his best to forget about, that drive him to work harder, that push him on days when there is nobody around other than himself to do the pushing.
Like in the rain against New England last year at Sun Life Stadium. The Dolphins were punting deep in their own territory. The ball was wet. It was a low snap that Brandon Fields couldn’t handle it. Suddenly, for one forgettable play, everyone knew who John Denney was.
“You can’t dwell on that,” he said. “You’ll worry yourself out of a job.”
But, to Denney’s credit, those types of plays don’t occur very often. He’s got two Pro Bowl invitations as evidence. Field goals. Extra points. Punts. For No. 92 on your roster, life has become a snap.
But it wasn’t always just that way. Denney started 29 games at defensive end in college at Brigham Young. One season had 4 ½ sacks. Deep down, though, he knew that wouldn’t be his calling.
“When the offense was on the field, I’d always be on the sideline practicing my long-snapping,” he recalls. “It’s not a very glamorous job. Kids don’t grow up and tell their parents they want to go to the park to long snap. It just doesn’t work that way.”
But someone has to do it and, now in his ninth season with the Dolphins, you can argue that Denney may just do it better than anyone else. He’s at 128 games in a row – never came close to missing one — and doesn’t want to think about the day it may come to an end.
“I want to play as long as they’ll have me,” he said. “You keep your nose out of trouble and you do your job.”
He smiled and, as he walked away, simply whispered: “I’m truly blessed.”
Friday morning A.C. in the A.M. talks about Saturday’s game against Houston
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