Kiko Alonso is adamant nothing has changed.
He’s the same guy he has always been. The linebacker is still quiet, reserved and sometimes a bit goofy off the field.
“He’s an interesting character,” defensive end Cameron Wake said. “To say the least.”
But on the field, Alonso has taken his game to a new level for the Miami Dolphins this season.
One that has him on pace for his first Pro Bowl appearance.
And one that could land him on the NFL’s All-Pro team at season’s end.
“I try to do the same thing every week,” Alonso said. “I’m just trying to give it everything I got out on the field.”
His effort is showing up on the statsheet. Alsono is second in the league with 83 tackles and has already forced a career-high three fumbles. He is one of two linebackers in the NFL with three interceptions so far this year, the other being the Jets’ Darron Lee.
The secret to Alonso’s success is what he does away from the field, away from practice, away from the coaches.
In addition to the daily practice regiment on the field, Alonso manages a strict diet, while also honing in on flexibility workouts such as yoga and Pilates to maintain his 6-3, 239-pound frame.
“His eating, you never see him eat anything that, like, I would eat,” coach Adam Gase said, adding that his diet includes a good amount of pizza and Rice Krispies Treats. “He does a great job being disciplined with all that stuff. I’m sure where he was from when he was younger to now is probably light years different.”
Wake added: “He’s definitely up there as one of the guys who takes tremendous pride in taking care of his body. ... His recovery and being able to get back as close to 100 percent as he can every Sunday, that’s from the things that you do off the field.”
Alonso has also had to grow into a mentor this year. Flanked to his sides each game are Jerome Baker and Raekwon McMillan, both playing their first full season in the league.
Alonso remembered coming in as a rookie in 2013 and having basically the entire Buffalo Bills defense help him prepare for life as an NFL player. Five years later, as a veteran of the game, Alonso knew it was his turn to be the leader.
“Both of them are basically rookies,” Alonso said. “I just want to give them as much advice and help because obviously I’ve seen more than them.”
Gase said he has seen the chemistry among the three linebackers grow throughout the season.
“It’s just three guys who love playing football,” Gase said. “They’re able to sit in a room and talk about what they’re thinking about doing and how they want to communicate some things and how they can work through a game.”
Alonso is at the center of his. His teammates in his position room are grateful for it.
“The real question is what didn’t he do to help me,” Baker said. “He does everything. Stays late. Gets here early. Gives you advice on the littlest thing. Kiko has done basically whatever he needed to do to make me a better player. His role, you can’t even comprehend how big it is.
“He’s just Kiko.”