Thursday, May 13, 2010

Miami Dolphins' Koa Misi Has No Identity Crisis

Since the moment Miami devoted a second-round pick to him on April 23, rookie linebacker Koa Misi almost immediately was linked to one of the most popular and talented defensive players in Dolphins history.

Fair or not, this was the player charged with the task of replacing Jason Taylor as the team's outside linebacker -- an assumption based purely on the position he plays, the early pick used to land him and the timing of his arrival.

But before anyone gets too caught up in such comparisons, perhaps it is time to first take a lesson from Misi himself. Hop into his mellow mind for a few moments and you will realize such stresses almost seem silly.

``I'm just my own guy,'' Misi said, not a drop of irritability in his voice. ``Growing up, I never really watched football. I never really watched any sports. I still don't. I just go out there and play.''

As he said Sunday, while wearing the same jersey number as ousted defensive captain Joey Porter, it's almost as if he also doesn't realize why it's ironic that a quiet, mild-mannered linebacker has inherited No. 55.
Then, it becomes clear:

``Did you ever watch the guy play who wore that number before you?'' Misi was asked.

Replied Misi: ``No, not really,'' followed by a polite shrug.

If you're still missing the point, it's simple. The Dolphins' devotion to the future and their dismissal of the past often has been viewed as harsh and cold. But Misi, with his ferocity on the field and his placidness away from it, might be the ideal remedy.

On the field, Misi will have every chance to fill the vacancy as the team's starting strong-side linebacker, which opened up by Taylor's departure. But it might not be in the natural sense many assume.


Miami particularly was impressed with Misi's coverage skills when the team coached against him in the Senior Bowl. His ability to be so disruptive as a coverage linebacker is rare, and his desire to devote himself to such responsibilities is even more rare.

Porter and Taylor often dreaded playing in coverage, instead wishing to stick to their primary duties as sackmasters. Although Misi will see his share of edge rushing, the pressure on the quarterback will mainly come from different areas.

``This kid was out in one-on-one drills, creating interceptions at the Senior Bowl, those type of things,'' coach Tony Sparano said. ``I liked what he did with his movement, his range and his coverage skills.''

So whereas Misi will play the same position as Taylor, his skill set offers yet another reason why comparisons to one of the NFL's best all-time pass rushers are not all that relevant.

Don't mistake Misi's attitude toward Taylor and Porter as disrespectful, either. You get a sense that's not the case just from hearing him speak. He tried to make that clear on the first day of rookie minicamp, which concluded Sunday.

``I do look up to those guys [Porter and Taylor],'' Misi said. ``Those guys are good players, and they have earned their spots in the NFL, and that's something that I want to do. Hopefully, I can get to where they were one day.''

So, sure, Misi does accept some of the expectations placed on him as a result of the timing of his arrival. But it's in the same type of way, with the same type of refreshing reasons, that he cites Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis as his idol.

``I've seen him in some magazines, looking all pumped up and pumping everybody else up,'' Misi said of Lewis. ``I liked that.''


From an early age, Misi found himself sitting in front of a TV watching football, because his father, former Hawaii offensive lineman Sione Misi, wanted him to pick up on the game. At first, it didn't seem to work.

``My dad always used to make me watch,'' Misi said. ``He'd sit me down and make me look at what each guy was doing. I just got sick of it. It made me not want to watch it anymore. I just couldn't get into it.''

Instead, it wasn't until high school when he started to play the game and develop a deep passion for it. Then, Misi said, he only would watch football to pick up on the tendencies of other players.

To this day, he has trouble getting engulfed by football as a spectator, a quality that has allowed him to maintain his laid-back approach to the task he's about to face. Fortunately for the Dolphins, his passion to play the game has a far different tone to it.

``In general, I'm a little low-key,'' Misi said. ``Not too hyper. When I get on the football field, it changes. The aggression comes out. I'm ready to go when I play football. I'm ready to hit somebody.''

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