Friday, August 3, 2007
From volleyball to the NFL: Sutton takes a long road to Dolphins
DAVIE, Fla. -- David Sutton leaped and made a spectacular
catch along the sideline, then landed awkwardly and briefly rolled
about in obvious pain.
A few minutes later, he was back in action, trying to make
another eye-catching play.
Something as insignificant as a minor injury -- "I hurt my butt
cheek," Sutton later explained -- wasn't going to derail this
rookie wide receiver from continuing his pursuit of an improbable
quest to find a spot on the Miami Dolphins' roster. A volleyball
player in his youth who never played football before college had
enough athletic ability to earn the team's attention, yet whether
that can translate into playing in the NFL is still a big question.
"There's something there," Dolphins coach Cam Cameron said.
"We're just not sure what it is yet."
Sutton can only hope that gets figured out over the next couple
He only started playing football four years ago, yet here he is,
with a corner locker and hopes to showcase his talent in the first
preseason game next weekend.
"So did I think I'd be here? Not at all. And is it
overwhelming? Yes, it really is," Sutton said Thursday.
Sutton's first calling, he thought, was volleyball. He has a
39-inch vertical leap that would make many NBA players envious. A
high school star in his native California, the sleek, 6-foot-6,
222-pound Sutton had numerous offers to play volleyball at the
Division I college level before deciding that the game didn't merit
a place in his long-term plans.
"I was going to try to go to the Olympics to play on that
little team," Sutton said. "But the world of volleyball is a
whole different world. People don't know there's a lot of racism
and I just got tired of hearing all that."
Simply put, being among the few black players on most high
school volleyball floors wore him down. Hearing racial taunts
became nearly an everyday occurrence, and he wound up at Lincoln
University in Missouri, a historically black Division II school
with no volleyball team.
There, he found football, which didn't fit his
volleyball-and-track schedule as a high schooler. His track coach,
who had Sutton soaring nearly 7 feet in the high jump as a senior,
told him shortly before dying that he thought football was where he
could truly excel.
"His last request was for me to play football," Sutton said.
Right away, he showed promise, setting a school record with an
89-yard catch as a freshman and scoring six touchdowns. But Lincoln
wasn't for him, so he briefly enrolled at the University of
"Too cold," Sutton said.
The California boy headed home the next year to Compton
Community College and hauled in five more scoring passes, then
moved on to Texas-El Paso -- where he managed only six catches for
30 yards in two seasons.
Still, the Dolphins took notice and signed him as an undrafted
free agent three months ago.
"David hasn't played a lot of football," Cameron said. "He's
been a premier volleyball player, and played a little bit at UTEP,
but he's improved tremendously. He gets that big body running
pretty fast. He's a guy that, it's just going to take some time."
That time, as Sutton points out, is running out.
So he bounced up after his bad landing in practice. He hobbled
down the sideline, followed by a trainer, then headed back to the
"It hurts. It really does," Sutton said. "But there's only
one way I'm going to make this team, and it's not by sitting on the
bench or not practicing or not practicing full-go every minute. It
shows I've got the heart, that I want to do this. Today I'm in
pain, but I've got to keep going. Time is flying."