Saturday, August 21, 2010
How nice: Polite a rugged servant for Miami
By Tim Graham
If you want to get a sense of what Miami Dolphins fullback Lousaka Polite is all about by watching him on the field, then you'll quickly come to the conclusion he does not live up to his name.
Polite's game is all about violence -- marrow-rattling blocks and sledgehammer runs.
But talk to Polite or those who benefit from his ruthless collisions and you'll get a different impression. The soft-spoken Polite is as agreeable as his surname implies.
Lousaka Polite is as important to Miami's run game as Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown.
Polite's all about harmony, teamwork, selflessness.
"He's very humble, very honest and a very hard worker," Ricky Williams said. "And he's so dependable."
Dolphins coach Tony Sparano recently called Polite "one of the most critical guys" on an offense that includes blossoming quarterback Chad Henne, star running backs Ronnie Brown and Williams, prolific receiver Brandon Marshall and franchise left tackle Jake Long.
But when I spoke to Polite about how much he means to the Dolphins, he repeatedly steered the conversation back to the team, declining to take any credit.
"The best thing about our team is we're very unselfish," Polite said. "We're all rooting for each other, no matter who's in there. That's important for a team. It's a long season, and we're all going to need each other."
Polite is one of the NFL's top fullbacks, a position that ranks slightly above holder on the anonymity gauge in today's game. What happened to the days of Jim Brown and Franco Harris anyway? Or even Larry Centers?
But when it comes to the jobs fullbacks must do in today's game, Polite is among the very best at them. He wasn't drafted and had been released five times before last season began, but by the end he was generating Pro Bowl buzz.
Polite has evolved into a quality blocker and was automatic in short-yardage situations. On third- or fourth-and-1, he converted all 16 of his carries for first downs.
"His role on the offense is very, very important," Sparano told Dolphins reporters this week. "Never mind what he does in some of the short-yardage situations. This guy is one of the people that you can really trust out there.
"Ricky and Ronnie would tell you they trust him because they know that he's going to help them get through the smoke. They just trust that the guy is going to be in the right place at the right time. ... As a football team you hope that you have more and more people that can trust each other like that group trusts Lousaka Polite."
Williams also appreciates that Polite can be so amenable. Williams explained a lot of fullbacks he has played with in the past can't diversify their approach, but Polite will cater to either Williams' or Brown's running styles.
"The way that I run, I like to get downhill as soon as possible," Williams said. "Some backs like to make people miss more. They trust and use their vision more.
"But the way I run, I say 'All you can do is get in the guy's way, Lou, because I'm going to be off your butt so fast you just need to get out of my way.' When I get the ball, there's never even a doubt in my mind he's going to be in the right place and that there's going to be a crease."
Polite rarely gets the glory. He has one career touchdown, a 12-yard catch and run for the Dallas Cowboys a half-decade ago. Fittingly, the toss from Drew Bledsoe was on a fourth-and-1 play.
Polite spent three years with the Cowboys, all under head coach Bill Parcells and with Sparano the run-game coordinator. Those relationships led Polite to the Dolphins.
He is the prototypical Parcells/Sparano player, a proud and effective grunt who does what he's told for the good of the team.
"I take pride when my number's called and my team is depending on me to deliver," Polite said. "I don't want to feel like I let them down. This is a role-based team. If they have something they want you to do, you have to do your best to get that job done."