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For TE McMichael, no regrets in taking on new role with S.D.

Discussion in 'American Football' started by Johnny Lightning, Aug 8, 2010.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006
    Cold feet? Only when he goes surfing

    For TE McMichael, no regrets in taking on new role with S.D.

    Sunday, August 8, 2010 at 10 p.m.

    He came to San Diego to catch passes for the Chargers, but because he is an adventurous sort with an affinity for the beach, Randy McMichael also tried catching waves.
    Well, that was his intent. Though raised in the Deep South, McMichael turned himself into a water sportsman between starts as a tight end with the Miami Dolphins and his now-annual forays to Trinidad and Tobago. Signed over the offseason by the Chargers, McMichael felt a quick and natural pull toward the Pacific Ocean.
    “When I first got here, I tried to do some surfing,” said McMichael, already starting to shake his head. “I went to Mission Beach, got in the water. (Eyes agog.) Man, it’s cold as hell. I didn’t have a wet suit. I almost froze. And the air temperature was low too. What’s with that?”
    As it happens, McMichael’s arrival for training camp coincided with the coldest July in more than seven decades. That first dip into the Pacific chop, though, was by no means the biggest or most important adjustment he’s having to make in San Diego.
    McMichael has eight years in the National Football League, five with the Dolphins, the last three with the St. Louis Rams. In all that time, a span of 116 games, only once was he not in a starting lineup.
    The Chargers, of course, already have a first-team tight end whose position isn’t exactly up for grabs and likely won’t be for a long while. McMichael knew that when he signed up with the Chargers, and since then, Antonio Gates has had his contract extended for five years and $36.175 million.
    “Once you get to the point I am in my career, it’s time to look at the big picture,” McMichael said. “It’s not about money anymore, not about location. It’s about winning. The opportunity to come here was a big one. I knew my role would change, but I wanted to win so bad.
    “I’m coming from a 1-15 team (St. Louis), a heartbreaking experience. My whole career, I’ve been the No. 1 guy, but this is a role I embraced. It took a lot of soul-searching to find out if that’s what I wanted. It was. It is.”
    Consider, even with their vaunted history, the Dolphins have never had a tight end catch more passes than the 283 amassed by McMichael from 2002-06. The first two years, the plays were called for him by Norv Turner, then the Miami offensive coordinator and eventually one of the reasons why McMichael chose to sign with the Chargers.
    “He’s so laid-back, but like a mad scientist,” said McMichael of the Chargers head coach. “Under all that niceness, there’s a fire burning, and he’ll let you know it.”
    McMichael’s own pass-receiving numbers in Miami belie the fact that he isn’t one of those new-age tight ends who basically are large wide receivers, and to be sure, he was brought in to do lots of blocking by the Chargers. Effectively, McMichael is filling the spot left by Brandon Manumaleuna, who moved on to the Chicago Bears.
    Known to use three tight ends simultaneously in certain situations, the Chargers also retained veteran Kris Wilson, likewise used more as a blocker than a passing target and a regular performer on special teams.
    And there it is, the real sign that different things are expected of McMichael in San Diego. In addition to plays from scrimmage, he’s working with the kick-return squad.
    “I’ve never played special teams, never been asked to play them,” McMichael said. “But it’s football and I pride myself on being a football player. I’m an adjustable wrench. Whatever you need done, I can do and will do.
    “My mentality about that is, it’s just a matter of stopping a guy from tackling Darren (Sproles). I don’t know the proper techniques, but I know how to block somebody.”
    He’s known how to box out, too, since childhood. When talking about how his mother (Angel) can “clean the glass,” he’s not talking about housework; she was the state basketball Player of the Year her senior year at Griffin (Ga.) High.
    Once he got over thumb and knee injuries that limited him to a mere one game in 1997 and ’98 at the University of Georgia, McMichael emerged with 90 catches, more than 1,200 yards in receptions and a degree in family and consumer science. The Dolphins kept him in the South, drafting him in the fourth round, and it was in Miami that the kid from inland Georgia fell in love with the ocean.
    One of his teammates in Athens, running back Verron Haynes, grew up in Trinidad and Tobago before his family moved to Atlanta. During the offseasons, McMichael would accompany Haynes back to Trinidad for the island’s version of Carnival, and being an entrepreneurial sort, he took an idea of Haynes’ and ran with it. Rather, rode.
    “We wanted to go jet-skiing, which I learned to love doing when I was with the Dolphins, but we couldn’t find any in Trinidad,” McMichael said. “We were sitting on Maracas Beach (and) my man Verron thought, ‘Man, we can make some money on this. Let’s start a jet-ski thing.’
    “We did some research, got the permits, bought the jet-skis in Florida. We just opened the business earlier this summer. Verron handled the business side. I’m the icebreaker, the conversationalist, sitting and BS’ing with people all day. It’s real fun and, you know, you can’t play football forever.”
    He’s already thinking “franchise.” If the water out here would ever get warm.

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