Christian Wilkins was born to be a star.
On the field.
And perhaps on the stage, too.
At least that’s the hope of the Dolphins’ gregarious first-round pick out of Clemson, a talented defensive lineman who lives life large.
With millions in the bank and a starting spot on the Dolphins’ defense, he’s already living the dream.
But he’s not living his dream. Not quite yet.
“I’m a sucker for plays, musicals, the whole performing arts stuff,” Wilkins told the Miami Herald after a Dolphins training camp practice. “I’m being 100 percent honest. My goal or my dream is to have at least one small role in a play. Broadway, it don’t matter. I could be at the Broward [Center for the] Performing Arts. Small role. I want to walk on stage, say one word, walk off.”
Wilkins often has jokes, so we weren’t quite sure if he was messing with us.
Football is the most macho of macho sports.
Wilkins, meanwhile, insists his “soundtrack for camp” is all “Hamilton” show tunes, all the time.
But he’s serious. He rattled off his favorite songs from the smash hit.
“The Story of Tonight.”
Yes, Wilkins knows his stuff.
And he’s more than comfortable in his own skin.
“I’ve loved them since high school,” Wilkins said. “That was probably my biggest regret in high school, not getting into them.”
So let’s go, performers of South Florida.
Somebody find a way to get Wilkins on the stage.
And do it now. The demand for his services will only go up if he plays as well as the Dolphins think he will this fall.
“I think he came in as a rookie in great shape in early minicamp and OTAs,” Dolphins defensive line coach Marion Hobby said. “He’s definitely pushed himself to get in that [starting] role. The work habits that he put in — yes, I think he’s doing a great job.”
Want proof of just how hard Wilkins works in practice?
When he came off the field after an August steamer back in camp, his feet splashed with every step he took.
But there were no rain puddles on the ground. The moisture was all sweat. His cleats looked like they were thrown in the ocean.
“I put them on a little drier [every day after practice], so they dry out, but I’m definitely squishy-squashy by the end of the day,” he said.
A little? Talk about an understatement.
But Wilkins is determined not to oversell anything as a rookie. He thundered into the league with moxie to spare — Wilkins nearly knocked over NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on the draft stage after hearing his name called — but has toned it down since.
Perhaps it’s the influence of Dolphins coach Brian Flores. Wilkins chuckles when asked about the difference between the “straight-edge” Flores and Dabo Swinney, his colorful collegiate coach.
“Coach Flo, I’ve got to get it out of him,” Wilkins said. “Whenever I see Coach Flo in the hallway, I’ll be myself, crack a joke and he’ll laugh. If he’s [ticked] off about something or he’s in his straight edge, I feel like we’re a good balance for each other. He’s got ‘Coach Mode’ and I try to be funny, crack a joke. I’m sure his mind is somewhere else, thinking about coaching, thinking about football. I always mess with him.”
So yes, Wilkins will always be an entertainer. He hammed it up when given the chance to throw out the first pitch at a Marlins game during the summer.
And while Broadway might never happen for him, soon the NFL will be his stage.
“To play football in general, be out here every day, smashing against grown men in the heat, you’ve got to be a different breed,” he said. “To do that level, enjoy that each day and love that each and every day. Forget about the money. Forget about the accolades, the fame and attention you get. Just to be able to do that. To most people, that wouldn’t even be able to be worth it. You’ve really got to love it, you really got to grind, you’ve got to be committed to being the best.”