NFL Nation: Paul Sheehy
|AP Photo/John Ulan|
|After proving himself in the CFL, Cameron Wake (91) hopes to capitalize on an opportunity with the Miami Dolphins.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
He had been somebody, the best linebacker from a place that cranks them out with such assembly line efficiency it's known as Linebacker U. He was a captain. He was important.
Then -- poof -- Derek Wake vanished. No NFL team drafted the freakish athlete who both thrilled and irritated Penn State coach Joe Paterno.
The New York Giants signed Wake as a rookie free agent in 2005. They cut him in June, having seen enough not to bother with a look-see at training camp.
And that, apparently, was that. Wake disappeared into an office here, a fitness center there. He wasn't famous anymore. The Big Man on Campus was shuffling bank papers, and they weren't even his. Bank advisors don't receive signing bonuses, and when he quit that job to become a personal trainer, the move didn't make the transaction wires.
One season came and went. Then another.
Wake slipped out of football's consciousness and into everyman oblivion. He stopped being somebody.
Yet he was somewhere, turning himself into somebody else.
"Everybody has their past," Wake said last week from his parents' home in suburban Washington, D.C. "I guess mine was a little more unorthodox than most."
Derek Wake had humbly gone about his life since the Giants axed him. But defensive end Cameron Wake popped up in the Canadian Football League in 2007 with about as much subtlety as a karate chop to the throat.
Cameron Wake was a whipsaw pass rusher with an insatiable craving for quarterbacks. Helpless tackles would've preferred trying to split an atom with a spork to blocking him. His sack totals for the BC Lions were obnoxious: 16 as a rookie, 23 last season. The CFL honored him as its best defensive player both seasons.
NFL scouts broke out their passports to spy Cameron Wake in person. He was a marvel to behold. But when his agent, Paul Sheehy, contacted teams to gauge their interest, some had no idea who Cameron Wake was. He didn't turn up in their scouting files.
Derek Cameron Wake had reinvented himself, all right. The former NFL washout, now playing under his middle name, became a hot commodity. Seventeen NFL clubs showed interest, and each of the eight teams that worked him out offered a contract.
The Miami Dolphins outbid the Indianapolis Colts, Buffalo Bills and Denver Broncos with the richest contract in CFL-to-NFL history, a four-year deal potentially worth almost $5 million with nearly $1 million in guarantees.
He turned 27 last week and hasn't participated in an NFL training camp.
"From the first day I played football to signing the letter of intent to play at Penn State to sitting on the couch to signing a multimillion dollar deal," Wake said, "it's a crazy, crazy road. My head's still spinning."
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