Tue, 24 Nov 2020

Bobby McCain: A Leader On and Off the Field

Miami Dolphins
29 Oct 2020, 21:05 GMT+10

Travis Wingfield

"Bobby has a unique ability to get along with all types of personalities, which in turn helps him on the field handle multiple communications with different individuals."

Dolphins Defensive Coordinator Josh Boyer didn't hesitate to call the longest-tenured member - and captain - of the Dolphins defense the quarterback of that unit.

"He really quarterbacks our defense. He's a really diligent worker," Boyer said. "Part of what we've really benefited from Bobby (McCain) being able to do is one, nurture relationships and two, be able to handle communications to numerous individuals."

Football is often referred to as the perfect reflection of life. Not only does it teach those fortunate enough to play the game invaluable life lessons in perseverance, grit and determination; it provides the most unique blend of personalities and people from all walks of life in one room with one common goal.

Boyer commended McCain's ability to galvanize the locker room and relate to all different personality types. According to McCain, there's the quiet group and the not-so-quiet group.

"On one end, I would say there's (defensive tackle) Zach Sieler and (tight end) Durham Smythe," McCain said. "Those are the quiet guys that stay to themselves and just come to work every day. Then there's (cornerback) Xavien Howard and (defensive end) Shaq Lawson. They come to work every day too, but let's just say they're not as quiet.

"Both groups are a lot of fun to be around and they're all good football players," McCain added.

McCain keeps a watchful eye over the locker room and over the defense. He draws a unique perspective of the field from his safety position. He's played 347 snaps this season with 276 of those coming from the free safety spot, according to Pro Football Focus.

From there, McCain communicates the shifts and adjustments the offense shows pre-snap. He takes pride in the responsibility of lining up the defense to match what the offense is showing. It should come as little surprise that he's the unofficial conductor of the defense on the field and the conduit between the coaching staff and the players between the white lines.

McCain - a standout at the University of Memphis - caught more than just 12 interceptions as a collegian. His prowess on the baseball diamond helped in developing quick feet and a captain's mentality. A quasi-center fielder on the football field, McCain buckled the shin guards and prided himself on playing behind the dish as a catcher.

From that position, and growing up around sports his entire life, McCain said a lot of life lessons - including his natural draw to leadership roles - come from athletics.

"With all sports that I've played, I've had to lead guys," McCain said. "Understanding where guys are supposed to be and what's supposed to happen. It's something I'm used to it."

A product of McCain's tutelage as the quarterback of the defense, the Dolphins boast the third-best scoring defense in the NFL at just 18.8 points per game allowed. Aside from his 21 total tackles, two quarterback hits, four pass breakups, interception and 0.0 passer rating allowed according to PFF, getting guys lined up is just as crucial as his actions after the whistle.

"I think Bobby has accepted the responsibility of what we want out of the free safety position in being a primary communicator," Dolphins Defensive Backs Coach Gerald Alexander said. "What allows him to do so is his understanding of the defense and his understanding of not just his 1/11th but everybody, and getting guys where they need to be, in positions to make plays."

The captain's duties are not exclusive to the field. Accountability, showing up on time, putting in the daily work - these are all tenets of McCain's professionalism and lessons he's taken away from a life in sports.

"As a kid, there were several moments where sports taught me responsibility," McCain said. "Sports teach you to be on time. They teach you accountability to yourself and to your teammates. There are several moments where I look back and say 'man that made me a better player, a better man and hopefully one day a better husband and father.'"

Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores is a stickler for the details. Knowing the situation and being prepared to react accordingly are non-negotiables for wearing the aqua and orange under his watch. Flores appreciates McCain not just for his production, but for his ability to convey that message relentlessly.

"You need someone to kind of remind guys to watch this or watch that," Flores said. "If it's third down, watch the sticks. I think we all kind of need reminders, and he's taken on that role and really embraced it. I'd say it's fair to say he's the quarterback of the defense."

The straw that stirs the drink on Miami's defense embraces the daily grind, the daily pursuit of improvement. Fresh off the bye week, however, McCain embraced the opportunity to clear his head and take some time away.

"Normally on the bye week I try to get out of town for a couple of days and relax my mind by going to a beach somewhere," McCain said. "Due to COVID I was able to just be at home but it was still nice to be able to relax and not focus on the game plan every day."

If McCain's mind wandered from football, it wasn't for long.

"It was nice to relax, but also nice to be able to take that time to be able to get a step ahead of the Rams," he said.

A global pandemic might've changed the sixth-year safety's bye week plans, but his mindset remains unwavering.

"Staying away from people is the thing you have to do right now," McCain said. "Being in your own space and understanding that it's bigger than just you is the focus."

Adversity is inevitable in football and in life. Whether it's tackling a 225-pound running back in the open field or managing a unique NFL season, McCain remains grateful.

"It's a blessing," McCain said of spending his entire career in Miami. "I never take it for granted. I come to work every day to get better each and every day. There are millions of people that want to be in your shoes so don't take it for granted and come in ready to work every day."

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