DAVIE, FLA. (AP) - The persistence that helped Cameron Wake make the transition from mortgage broker and frustrated couch potato to AFC sack co-leader is evident every time he chases a quarterback.
For example, there was a critical play last week that left the Miami Dolphins linebacker on his back, buried under a 315-pound Green Bay tackle. So he reached out, snared quarterback Aaron Rodgers by the shoe and yanked him down.
“Game on the line, you know?” Wake said. “I saw that shoe and grabbed hold.”
The sack set up the Dolphins‘ winning field goal in overtime. It was Wake’s third sack of the game and sixth this season _ pretty good for someone who spent a year out of football after going undrafted.
That was in 2006, when Wake embarked on a corporate career. But watching NFL games on TV only reinforced his conviction he belonged on the field.
So he mounted a comeback, played two seasons in the Canadian Football League, signed as a free agent with the Dolphins and became a starting outside linebacker this year at age 28.
When Wake describes his path to the NFL as “unorthodox,” he knows that’s an understatement.
“I didn’t take the highway here,” he said. “I came the back way, the roundabout route. But at the end of the day I’m sitting in the locker room with the guys who did take the highway. I enjoyed the path I took. I wouldn’t change anything.”
Going into Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh, Wake is on pace for 19 sacks, which would break the 37-year-old franchise record of 18 1/2 set by Bill Stanfill and tied by Taylor.
Teammates say they expected such productivity from Wake. He had 5 1/2 sacks as a backup last season, even though he was used for only a handful of plays in each game.
“We all knew what he had,” safety Yeremiah Bell said. “He just didn’t get the opportunity he has now. Last year when he got in the game and rushed the passer, he made things happen. With more snaps this year, we knew he was going to do big things.”
Wake has at least one sack in four of Miami’s first five games. Against Minnesota, his strip sack of Brett Favre produced a fumble that was recovered for a touchdown.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger concedes he knew little about Wake before the season. And now?
“I think everybody in the NFL knows who he is,” Roethlisberger said. “He’s causing a huge stir and doing some great things. He’s a very physical rusher. It doesn’t seem to matter whether he’s being blocked _ he seems to find a way to throw guys off him or run through them. He’s making plays left and right like it’s nothing.”