As organized team activities are well underway in South Florida, several Miami Dolphins met with media members on Tuesday afternoon.
Among them was recently re-signed, and former undrafted free agent, cornerback Nik Needham. Not only did Needham have a chance to talk about his successes with reporters on Tuesday, but he’s also the latest guest on the popular Dolphins Podcast “The Fish Tank.”
As he details on the show, Needham has had as much of an indirect path to NFL success as any Dolphin on the roster. From not hearing his name called during the draft process, and without a national tryout at the NFL Scouting Combine, Needham was called literally minutes after the last name of the draft was.
The caller was his current defensive coordinator, Josh Boyer. Needham goes on to discuss the rollercoaster that’s been his football life, whether it be just one year of varsity football in high school, going 1-23 in his final two collegiate seasons or getting the dreaded cut-call following NFL training camp.
The University of Texas-El Paso product was not selected in the 2019 NFL Draft, however, fast forward three years, and he’s fresh off a contract extension, as Miami placed a second-round tender on him in the offseason. Needham had a chance to discuss this with the media Tuesday.
“It was a blessing, I would not want to play anywhere other than Miami,” Needham told reporters. In his first media session since the tender, Needham was upfront and honest as to why staying in Miami seems like a no-brainer.
“It was my first team that gave me a shot and kept it honest with me,” he said. “[They] brought me up from a fat, young dude out of shape, get right, practice squad to starting to playing with these guys. ”
While not making the initial 53-man roster, Needham honed his craft and got his nutrition and training to the point where Miami was noticing his work ethic and craft in his cornerback play. He was given a call-up to the show for Week 6 in 2019 and, since then, has developed into one of the NFL’s top slot corners. As a testament to Needham’s versatility and coachability, he spent his college career playing on the outside.
Needham had his ups and downs in his first three years as a pro, but in 2021 he had the distinction of saying he did not allow a single touchdown. He actually scored more than he allowed, as he got his “Nik-Six” against the New Orleans Saints in Week 16 on Monday Night Football.
Heading into the 2022 season, Needham is fielding different kinds of questions these days. Now a veteran and a staple in a lethal Miami defensive backfield, he was asked about long-term contracts. While no surprise to some, it’s certainly a different conversation than his rookie year and even 2020, when he took his share of growing pains.
Needham answered in his usual humble nature.
“Like I say every year, just the year that’s in front of me is the most important thing,” he stated. “I’m not really worried about next year, contract, or whatever happens. I still have to go out there and perform so I can even get a contract. ”
The questions transitioned to those about the team and transactions, Needham was asked about the offensive-minded new head coach, Mike McDaniel, and what he may bring to the Dolphins’ defense.
“I think he’s doing a great job of just bringing us all together,” Needham said. “Like activities for conditioning, we did put a contest to run one time.
“I think all that stuff is building the camaraderie on the team. We all feel the energy in here and it just feels like a different vibe this year for sure.
Check off Needham for buying in, as he emphatically stated, “I love what he’s doing here for sure. He’s a great coach. “
Reporters then asked about new wide receiver Tyreek Hill and his pairing with fellow speedster Jaylen Waddle.
“You’re like ‘Ah, damn, he’ s fast on film, ‘but then when you really get right in front of him it’s like’ oh man, those two definitely have a different speed, ‘” Needham admitted.
Whether Needham plays inside in the slot, back on the outside or even at safety in which he was called upon in a pinch last season, chances are he’ll be battling with them plenty during practice.
As he has even said in the past, “iron sharpens iron.”
Speaking of iron, there seems to be the building of an iron legion in the Miami secondary, and with the whole team back, there’s no reason to think they can not be an elite unit in the league.
“I think we all, like I said, camaraderie and we’ve all been together for a long time,” Needham said. “I think we have real good chemistry so the sky is the limit for us, that’s what I would say.”
Needham even had an opportunity to share some insight on McDaniel’s practice motives, as linebacker Jaelan Phillips was spotted in an orange jersey.
“Yeah, so yesterday he won practice player of the day; so, they get an orange jersey, and they get to choose the music for the whole day, ”Needham detailed.
In a light-hearted segue, Needham did mention the second-year pass-rusher could use a better playlist repertoire.
“At the beginning of practice, he kept playing three songs over and over. No bueno but then he changed it, so it was good. ” He jokingly added that if he had the honor, the playlist would be, “only Cali music.”
Needham was also given a chance to talk about his secondary teammates and mentioned two that have stood out so far regarding potential next steps.
“Jevon: [Holland] and Brandon: [Jones], you can just tell that back there they work together well now, ”Needham said. “They’ll get on each other, hold each other more accountable because I think they’re comfortable with each other. That’s the big step I see. ”
Things certainly seem to be working in harmony for Needham and the Dolphins, with camaraderie and confidence being instilled by McDaniel and his staff.