One of the biggest surprises on a Dolphins team with a bunch of them had a life-altering choice as a youngster: either become immersed in the crime and street violence that temporarily derailed his twin brother and eventually sent him to prison. Or avoid that life at all costs.
Davon Godchaux chose the latter and now has emerged as a key rotation piece on a Dolphins’ defensive line that desperately needed one of its young defensive tackles to develop quickly. Coach Adam Gase said it hasn’t been decided whether Godchaux or Jordan Phillips will start alongside Ndamukong Suh, but the fifth-round rookie from LSU is expected to get meaningful snaps regardless.
The Dolphins open their season against the Chargers in Los Angeles on Sept. 17 and were scheduled to fly to Los Angeles on Friday, avoiding Hurricane Irma, and will practice in Southern California next week.
“I’m very proud of myself,” Godchaux said. “I could have easily gone the opposite way [in life] but I chose to do the good way. So that's the mature part of me, the part of me learning from guys like [Ndamukong] Suh, [Cam] Wake, Andre Branch, maturing each day on and off the field.”
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As a junior in high school in Plaquemine, La., Godchaux once came home to the alarming sight of police tape circling his home. Earlier that day, at least one gunman had fired more than a dozen shots into his home, bullets that were supposed to be a message for his twin brother Devin.
Nobody was injured, but Devin faced death threats from neighborhood rivals and later was imprisoned on an assault conviction.
Devin Godchaux was released from prison on Aug. 24 and “he’s going to come down and see me,” Davon Godchaux said. “I’m very proud of him.”
The brothers are quite close. In some ways, Devin’s release served as a reminder of the better road that Davon traveled.
Was the Dolphins’ rookie’s life ever in danger?
“I never felt like my life was in danger, but it's the streets,” he said of his childhood that included a father who was absent much of the time and a mother with health problems. “Whoever comes from the streets understands. Look where I am now. From a little kid growing up, I always wanted to play in the NFL. If you can beat your man, you can play football.”
Gase said Godchaux has thrived because “he’s powerful, explosive, a violent interior player. He has done a good job.”
Godchaux hasn’t been the only Dolphins surprise through preseason.
There were other plenty of others, more than most years, including Jesse Davis, a second-year tackle from Idaho who moved to guard and won a roster spot but lost out to Anthony Steen in the competition to start at left guard.
Davis doesn’t even have his own Wikipedia page; the only Jesse Davis you’ll find with a Wikipedia page is the American jazz saxophonist.
The Dolphins kept five undrafted rookies, which Gase said is evidence that “our scouting department did a really good job. They did a good job of targeting guys and finding the guys that fit our culture.”
• Undrafted cornerbacks Maurice Smith and Torry McTyer. Both impressed by being stout in coverage and effective on special teams.
Smith, who has split time here between safety and cornerback, left Alabama and transferred to Georgia before his senior season because he wanted more playing time. But for a few weeks before leaving Alabama in July 2016, the school wouldn’t allow him to use any of its facilities.
“I felt it was unfair,” he said. “I had nowhere to live. I wasn’t able to eat. Teammates had to bring me food. What I went through made me mentally stronger.”
Still, he didn’t blame Alabama coach Nick Saban and wrote a letter to Saban in June thanking him for what Saban taught him.
McTyer, the undrafted rookie from UNLV, said he picked Miami over several other offers after the draft because “it felt like the best fit.”
It helped that defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo called him a couple times before the draft.
McTyer, who initially committed to California before a coaching change, went to UNLV as a receiver but moved to cornerback almost immediately.
• Eric Smith. The undrafted Virginia rookie is now one of Miami’s backup tackles. Smith allowed a combined 46 quarterback pressures his last two years at Virginia but has been solid in his first NFL preseason. The Dolphins summoned him to team headquarters a week before the draft.
• Chase Allen. The linebacker from Southern Illinois led the NFL with 34 preseason tackles.
“Once the pads came on,” Gase said, “you saw a guy that was doing a good job of wrapping guys up, putting them to the ground and being consistent.”
• Matt Haack. Not only is Miami’s new punter cheaper than ousted veteran Matt Darr, but the Dolphins believe the fact Haack is left-footed will help.
“We feel like we have something special there, and the fact that he’s left footed works out,” Gase said. “It’s tough for returners. I know, in my time, every time that we would play a left-footed punter, it was always a nonstop conversation by special teams coaches.”
Haack said “players are not used to the ball coming down the opposite way” and opposing players trying to field his punts in college had a “decent amount of fumbles” and “some wouldn’t” even try to catch them.