What drives Cameron Wake?
The desire to be better today than he was yesterday.
Now let’s flip that question.
What does Cam Wake drive?
A loaded Range Rover. And sometimes he’s the engine.
That two-ton luxury vehicle has been Wake’s secret weapon during an 11-month rehab from a torn Achilles tendon.
Wake makes his long-anticipated return to the football field in Seattle Sunday, and his Range Rover deserves at least some of the credit. The SUV often doubles as the most expensive -- and probably most effective -- blocking sled on the planet.
As part of his rehab, he pushed it through the streets of South Florida.
“There's an area near where I live where they haven't really built it up too much, so it's just a paved road,” Wake said. “Not many people watching. ... The hardest part is starting it. Once you get it moving, it's just ‘drive your legs’ after that.”
So this is how Wake spent his offseason: Pushing cars. Running hills. Midnight weight-lifting sessions.
All of that self-sacrifice was to get Wake’s body ready for what’s to come: an NFL season in which he has much to prove -- and as many doubters to silence -- than any since the first of his remarkable career.
Many players aren’t the same after tearing their Achilles. Very few players are the same when they reach the mid-30s.
There's an area near where I live where they haven't really built it up too much, so it's just a paved road. Not many people watching. ... The hardest part is starting it. Once you get it moving, it's just ‘drive your legs’ after that.
Cameron Wake, Miami Dolphins defensive end
Wake, who turned 34 in January, is trying to beat both at the same time.
“It's been a long road,” Wake said. “I try to put it in the back of my head, but it's the reality. It's been a long time since I've played an actual game.”
Wake added: “I've run through that last play a billion times in my mind, and I feel like I've gotten over it. I've got to move forward. It's just like football. You always use that contest of, oh, the next play is the most important. I can't harp on things that have happened before. I'm concentrating on moving forward and doing my best to win games.”
That last play came in the Dolphins’ Week 8 loss to New England. Wake was pursuing Tom Brady when his left leg just went limp. He somehow finished the play, even though he knew immediately something was horribly wrong.
Fast-forward nearly a year, and Wake has beaten the odds once again. He’s not only back for an eighth NFL season, he looks as fast as ever. He appeared in one preseason game, and on the first snap he took, Wake collapsed the pocket and helped the Dolphins’ defense get off the field on third down.
“I'm getting there,” Wake said. “I'm hard to please. I still want to get a couple of things taken care of. ... In my mind, unless I'm better than I was, I still have work to do. Even when people think I'm at my best, I still feel like I have more to do.”
If Wake is better than ever, the Dolphins might be better than most expect.
He has more help than ever before. The Dolphins’ defensive line should be excellent, with Mario Williams and Ndamukong Suh to his right. Williams on Monday acknowledged what most believe: the Dolphins’ defensive line has to meet its potential.
“You have to set the tone,” Williams said. “It definitely starts with us.”
It certainly will against the Seahawks. If Seattle has a weakness, it’s an offensive line that allowed 11 sacks in the preseason. The Dolphins must be disruptive up front to have any chance of winning.
The betting public isn’t optimistic about those chances. The Dolphins are 7 1/2-point underdogs, making them the biggest long-shots of the weekend.
For Wake, doubters have littered his football path since the beginning.
So how much does shutting them up provide motivation?
“None,” Wake said. “I've long since stopped caring about anybody else. The way I am, who I am ... the way people talk about me, obviously, when I [was getting] to this point, people told me I couldn't, people told me to stop.”
Wake continued: “We just have to live with ourselves. I guarantee you, my standards are higher than anybody else's. ... I've never worried about them. The mob is fickle.”