DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — Isaiah Pead is the Miami Dolphins’ leading rusher this preseason, and there are other ways to measure his rising stock as he challenges for a roster spot and perhaps even a spot in the running back rotation.
Early this year Pead was out of the NFL, living with his mom and distressed by his unfulfilled potential as a former second-round draft pick.
“There was time when I sat back and said, ‘Man, what happened?'” he said Monday. “Then you wake up the next day and get to work.”
Pead considered looking for a regular job or starting a trucking company back home in Columbus, Ohio. Instead he continued to work at football, staying in shape and trying out whenever teams beckoned.
He estimates he worked out for eight or 10 teams this past offseason before receiving a contract offer from the Dolphins in March, and he has made plenty of positive plays in the drills, practices and practice games since.
“It just seems like every time he touches the ball, something good happens for us,” coach Adam Gase said.
Pead has had a strong training camp at an unsettled position. First-team running back Jay Ajayi is unproven, second-teamer Arian Foster is coming back from Achilles tendon surgery, and neither was impressive in the first two preseason games.
By contrast, Pead had a 45-yard run and a 30-yard reception Friday at Dallas. In two games he has 98 yards rushing in 14 carries, a 7.0 average. Ajayi and Foster have combined for 20 yards in 10 carries, a 2.0 average.
Pead is trying to help his chances with the Dolphins by playing on four special teams units, something he never did in high school or at the University of Cincinnati.
“This league is special,” Pead said. “To be in this league, you’ve got to be a special person. I always knew I could play in this league. It was just a matter of capitalizing on opportunities. Here’s one.”
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill said Pead is doing his best to take advantage of the chance.
“I didn’t know a whole lot about him,” Tannehill said. “But he has really impressed me since he has been here with the way he works. He’s constantly out there working.”
Pead was drafted 50th overall in 2012 by the St. Louis Rams but carried the ball only 19 times for them and missed the 2014 season because of a knee injury.
After the Rams released him last September, he signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers but never saw action.
“It teaches you the downside of how this league can be,” Pead said.
Already discouraged by a succession of unsuccessful tryouts last spring, he wasn’t optimistic about landing a deal after he worked out for the Dolphins.
“I dropped a couple of balls, I stumbled a few times,” Pead said. “I texted my agent, ‘I think I blew this one.'”
Miami called later that day with a contract offer.
“We knew his background,” Gase said. “He did enough in the workout. It wasn’t as bad as he was making it out to be. He did well enough for us to say, ‘Let’s give this guy a shot,’ and he has made the most of it.”
When Pead’s career is done, he still plans to start a business with dump trucks or semis, but now he’s thinking he might base his company in South Florida.
“I love it down here,” Pead said with a grin, hopeful he has finally found an NFL home.
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