Brandon London has been tossing and turning, restlessly waiting for this week to arrive since early January. The start of training camp, widely looked upon with scorn and intense hesitation, is London's next shot to prove his worth to the Miami Dolphins, and the third-year wide receiver is erupting with excitement.
"I just can't wait to get out there," said London, who was one of the most productive wideouts in UMass history. "Everybody hates training camp, but it's just something that I need right now. I need to get out there and play some football right now because I've been going crazy being away from it."
London had a quiet regular season in 2008, totaling three catches for 30 yards while playing mostly on special teams. But he got his chance during the playoffs and captured the opportunity.
The Dolphins faced a rash of injuries at wide receiver during the regular season, and London was one of just three wideouts who dressed for Miami's wild-card loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Starter Davone Bess injured his thumb early in the game, and London was propelled into the spotlight. The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder caught four passes for 38 yards and was one of the Dolphins' most consistent threats during an afternoon when the Ravens suffocated Miami's offensive rhythm.
"I knew I had to do something," London said. "I couldn't just be out there just to be out there, just being a little huddle ornament."
London's career performance, shown on national television, has exponentially increased his motivation to have a strong training camp. He said he's trimmed down his weight and worked out to add more speed and explosion to his game.
"It's been a crazy offseason," London said. "I took about two weeks off, and I was just hungry to come back and do more. It's crazy because I finally get going, and the season ends just like that. It gave me a great deal of confidence. I [wasn't] getting that much time at receiver during the year. This is a playoff game, and I kind of rose to the occasion a little bit. I didn't do anything real big. I just proved that I can go out there and play. I can go out there and do some positive things for the team. I've been busting my butt this offseason.
"The worst thing the NFL could have let me do was have those four catches in that game because it just gave me a great deal of confidence in terms of my ability and wanting to make plays for my team."
Even with his strong showing in the postseason, it'll be a challenge to earn a spot on the Dolphins' 53-man roster. Teams typically carry six wide receivers, and Ted Ginn Jr., Greg Camarillo and Bess are all locks to make the team. Plus, Miami drafted a pair of wideouts in April, spending a third-round selection on USC's Patrick Turner and a fourth-rounder on Ohio State's Brian Hartline. The Dolphins also used a second-round pick on West Virginia quarterback Pat White, who might be transformed into a wide receiver. With that, London will be in a battle with Turner, Hartline, Anthony Armstrong and veteran Ernest Wilford for the final roster spots.
"It's a huge competition," London said. "Every play, every chance you get, you have to make that play. If you go in and drop a pass, I can guarantee you Davone Bess is going to make a spectacular catch on the next play, or Ted Ginn is going to beat somebody deep, or Brian Hartline is going to make a spectacular catch. Any chance you get to make a play, you have to do it in order to keep your head above water with these guys. That's the type of thing that we like down here.
"Competition only brings the best out of you. It puts pressure on you at times. But hey, what's a little pressure at camp? What's a little pressure during OTAs? The biggest pressure is stepping in the game and having to make plays and stuff like that. It's just competition. We're all good friends. I talk to these guys all the time, but as soon as we step on the field, everybody is out trying to make a play so they can be that guy."
London was in a similar position last year with the New York Giants. He spent his rookie season in 2007 on their practice squad after they signed him as an undrafted free agent, and his most noteworthy accomplishment that season was acting as New England Patriots receiver Randy Moss for the Giants' scout team in preparation the Super Bowl. London did such a good job in practice that Giants head coach Tom Coughlin publicly praised him.
But the Giants had a deep set of wide receivers during their 2008 training camp, and they released London prior to the final roster cut-down date with the intention of re-signing him and placing him on their practice squad again. However, the Dolphins swooped in and claimed London off waivers.
Before the cut-downs, London had a productive talk with longtime Giants wideout Amani Toomer. It turned out to be a conversation London said he'll never forget.
"Last year was a numbers game with the New York Giants, and I was sitting there trying to figure out where I fit in with the six receivers they plan on taking," London said. "[Toomer] sat me down and was like, 'Don't ever try to understand what the people upstairs are thinking. Just go out and play football. Everything will take care of itself.'
"You can never think of, 'If this guy gets hurt, then I can get moved up.' You can't think about it like that. Just go out and take care of what you need to take care of, and everything will fall into place."
Things are already coming together in the London household. His father, Mike, coached the University of Richmond to the Football Championship Subdivision national title last season, adding even more hardware to the family's football résumé. It's also given Mike some verbal artillery for his son, as Brandon's Minutemen fell in the 2006 FCS title game.
More importantly, it's really put Mike London on the map. The former police officer has also spent time as the Houston Texans' defensive line coach in 2005, and he was the defensive coordinator at the University of Virginia from 2006-07.
Because of the recent good fortunes for both father and son, it's gotten Brandon to thinking even bigger things. A couple of Londons in the Super Bowl? Maybe someday.
"That's the dream, man," London said, "me and my father in the Super Bowl."