Four miles southeast of Sun Life Stadium is the area known as Golden Glades, an unincorporated part of Miami-Dade that has the largest concentration of Haitian-Americans in the country.
There’s a reason new Dolphins safety Louis Delmas feels like he’s “at home” in Miami. Delmas’ parents were born in Haiti. Many of his formative years were spent in North Miami, which has a strong Haitian population. His ties to the island nation run deep.
“I definitely try to make it out every year,” Delmas said. “I do have the [opportunity] to expand the education on what’s going on in Haiti, the Haitian people and the Haitian community, and I’m taking full advantage of it.”
He’s in the right place. Florida has the nation’s largest Haitian population, and a good chunk of that population lives within a 10-minute drive of his new stadium.
Delmas didn’t have that in Detroit, where he spent his first five NFL seasons. But when he was mulling potential destinations during free agency earlier this year, he was looking for a place where he would fit in.
From all appearances, Miami fits him like a pair of shoulder pads. His fun-loving, hard-hitting style has already become infectious in a Dolphins organization that walked on eggshells for much of scandal-ridden 2013.
“I’m excited to play with him,” cornerback Cortland Finnegan said. “The energy he brings, his excitement that he brings to the locker room is kind of contagious to everyone around him, and I think you need somebody like that on your team.”
Said Dolphins coach Joe Philbin: “The thing that really attracted us to Delmas was his play speed. We thought he played the game fast and decisively, very little hesitation, and he’s a physical and active football player. Since he’s been here, a lot of those things we’ve seen in practice. I think he’s been an excellent locker room addition. He seems to fit in well here, he likes it here. So far, I’m very pleased with him.”
The knock on Delmas is that that he plays with physicality but can’t stay healthy. He missed 13 games in 2011 and 2012 because of chronic knee issues.
He signed a “prove-it” contract with the Dolphins in March, a one-year, incentive-laden deal that could pay him up to $3.5 million. If he thrives here, bigger money will likely come in 2015. If not, the Dolphins assumed little risk to begin with.
Assuming he stays healthy, Delmas should be part of one of the league’s better secondaries. Delmas allowed quarterbacks to complete just 43.8 percent of the passes thrown in his coverage area (although did have a tendency to get beat deep, surrendering 22.4 yards per reception, the most by a safety).
He is projected to start alongside Jimmy Wilson, who will replace the suspended Reshad Jones for the first four games, on the back end. Finnegan and Brent Grimes, who have both been to the Pro Bowl, will likely man the corners.
And they presumably will have the benefit of working in tandem with an aggressive pass rush that will force quarterbacks to act quickly.
“In the Miami organization, there are playmakers everywhere, from the quarterback, to the O-linemen to the D-linemen, to the coaches,” Delmas said. “The reason why I chose this team is they have a lot of young dudes who have potential to go all the way. Now, the fact of the matter is, it takes a complete team to be one of those competitive, top-five teams, and to make it to the national championship, and we do have that. We’re very excited.”
In the meantime, Delmas plans to immerse himself in the local culture. He regularly pops in on community events to help translate for those who struggle with English.
But he doesn’t just hear about the nation’s long rebuild after the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 100,000 people and ravaged an already teetering economy. He has seen it firsthand.
“Families are still suffering right now, but for the most part, people are still happy, happy to be alive and happy to have another day to walk on this earth,” Delmas said. “Of course, in every country, there’s a beautiful side and an ugly side. That’s life. Haiti is Haiti. The people in Haiti are always beautiful and always appreciate it.”