Throughout the draft process, college players create relationships with fellow prospects through private workouts and events such as the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine. In the weeks and months leading up to the draft, bonds are formed as rookies go through the trials and tribulations of the toughest job interview around.
That was certainly the case for Dolphins sixth-round pick Matt Hazel. In a stroke of luck, some of the players he worked alongside on the way to Miami were also selected by the Dolphins.
In an interview The Finsiders, Hazel spoke about working alongside the rest of the Dolphins rookies and his connection with several of Miami’s draft picks.
One person he knows is cornerback Walt Aikens, Miami’s fourth-round selection out of Liberty. Playing at Coastal Carolina, Hazel faced off against Aikens several times, as both of their respective schools play in the Big South. In their most recent matchup, Hazel and the Chanticleers defeated Aikens and his Liberty Flames in a 55-52 shootout. Hazel got the better of Aikens a couple times, snagging 9 balls for 147 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Hazel makes sure Aikens doesn’t forget that that happened. It’s the typical wide receiver-defensive back relationship.
“We talk about it everyday,” said Hazel. “The thing is that me and Walt, it’s crazy, we’re like best friends. We don’t let the past (rivalries) dictate it. We’ll talk about it joke around a little bit but we’re teammates now. It was really exciting when we both got drafted by the Dolphins. We’ll probably end up being roommates (in training camp) and we’ll talk about (our games) all the time.”
Hazel also got to work with fellow Dolphins rookie receiver Jarvis Landry during the spring. The two worked out with the same private trainers leading up to the Combine. According to Hazel, the two developed a good friendship and have helped push each other towards the ultimate goal of being great.
“We worked out for the combine at API (Athletes’ Performance Institute), where we were just pushing each other the whole time,” said Hazel. “We roomed together actually in the hotel, so we were quizzing each other on plays and certain formations, and knowing different positions. Then we both got drafted. Now it’s a competition, but we’re going to keep pushing each other to be the best we can be.”
Hazel also worked out with first-round selection Ja’Wuan James at API. He also played against linebacker Jordan Tripp and offensive lineman Billy Turner during his time at Coastal Carolina. Knowing fellow rookies previously makes the transition easier and even may help Hazel develop into a leader in the locker room since he’s comfortable already.
During the team’s rookie minicamp in May, he and the other draft picks served as leaders for the rest of the team, giving the 36 tryout players and undrafted free agents an example they could follow. So even though he’s a young guy, he’s already trying to become a leader.
“Now we understand a little bit what it takes to be a professional,” said Hazel. “We’re kind of like mini-vets, and we’re out here trying to lead the (other) young guys to help them out so they can help with their future as well.”
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