Keep an eye on Dolphins punter Thomas Morstead during Sunday’s game against Green Bay. He won’t be hard to spot. He’ll be the guy constantly running up and down the sideline, 30 or 40 yards at a time, while the Dolphins have the ball. Or he’ll be jumping up and down, or stretching, all the while dodging cheerleaders, photographers, game officials, TV camera operators and other such sideline traffic.
Morstead is constantly in motion because he likes to keep his heart rate between 110 and 130 beats per minute.
“If you were to track my heart rate during the game, it kind of looks like I’m running a marathon,” he said.
The 36-year-old Morstead, who spent his first 12 seasons with New Orleans, is in his first season with the Dolphins after splitting last season between the New York Jets and Atlanta.
Morstead, who won Super Bowl XLIV with the Saints, is an interesting study.
And as you’ll see, he’ll do everything he can to stay loose on the sideline during a game — except punting into the net and riding the stationary bicycle, two things he prefers not to do.
“An idle mind is not an asset to me,” he said. “And so I just tend to have a process throughout the game. If it’s first down I’m doing ‘X,’ if I’m second down I’m doing this, third down doing this, and then, all of a sudden, they call punt team and I’m ready.
“And if we get a first down I just start the process over again until we get into field-goal range or score a touchdown.”
There’s probably no one on the Dolphins’ roster quite like Morstead.
During the Dolphins’ bye week this year Morstead and his wife and two sons spent a night on the street in New Orleans, sleeping on a piece of cardboard and in a sleeping bag despite 39-degree temperatures. It was an event sponsored by Covenant House of New Orleans that was designed to raise awareness and funds for homelessness.
Morstead grew up in Pearland, Texas, a Houston suburb, where his father was a professional cyclist.
“I saw him win a few state championships in Texas when he was in his mid 30s,” Morstead said. “That was pretty cool. And I really credit my dad. I learned how to suffer watching him. That was his edge. I remember in high school I asked him what kind of separated him and he just said he was willing to suffer more than other people. And I thought. ‘That’s a pretty twisted mindset.’ “
But it was something Morstead eventually partially adopted.
Take a look at his body and you notice that Morstead, at 6-foot-4, and a well-chiseled 225 pounds, keeps himself in good shape. It wasn’t always that way.
Morstead punted as a high school freshman, when he was 5 feet tall and weighed 90 pounds. But he broke his leg as a freshman and didn’t play again until his senior year.
“Going into my senior year I think I was about 6-4, maybe 175 pounds, and I went to college at 182,” said Morstead, who attended SMU.
“So I basically doubled my weight in high school. I went from 90 to 182, and I grew 16 inches. But it was all skin and bones, regardless of the height, and then I discovered the weight room in college. And that obviously was a very positive thing for me.”
Morstead is so serious about fitness he wears a Whoop, which is a wristwatch-like instrument that monitors things such as heart rate and sleep patterns.
“It’s kind of a personal accountability tool because it’ll give you data and it’ll say, ‘Every time that you drink alcohol your recovery is 20% less, or every time that you have caffeine, you need this much more sleep,’ ” he said. “It doesn’t mean you never have alcohol or caffeine, what it means is you understand that there’s a price to pay. And it’s really helped me become very aware of all those things. It’s certainly been a very positive thing for me for my career.”
As for the mental side of things, before games Morstead will watch a seven- or eight-minute video of himself making good punts to get into a positive mindset.
If he’s not running while on the sideline during a Dolphins possession, he might be tossing the ball in the air to himself, keeping his hands ready, staying loose, staying in the game.
Otherwise, he might simply be chilling on the sideline.
This is the routine Morstead has had since 2015 or 2016, when he stopped doing kickoffs.
“I’ll sit on the bench a little bit when we’re on defense,” he said, “but other than that I’m kind of in my own world. There’s a lot of plays that my family would be like, ‘Hey, did you see that?’ I’m like, ‘No, I didn’t.’ I was just staying in my own lane. Just staying ready.”
Two more interesting nuggets about Morstead:
— He’s partially with the Dolphins because of Michael Thomas, the former Dolphins defensive back, and Keion Crossen, the current Dolphins defensive back and special teams standout. Morstead, Crossen and Thomas are active in the player’s union. At a meeting during the offseason Thomas remarked to them that the way Morstead punts, and the way Crossen covers punts, it’d be cool if they could join forces. When Morstead saw Crossen signed with the Dolphins, it nudged him in this direction.
— Morstead’s best and worst kicks of his career came at Hard Rock Stadium. He had the now-infamous “butt punt” against Buffalo earlier this season, a play in which he was punting from his own end zone and punted into the backside of wide receiver Trent Sherfield. The ball went backward out of the end zone for a crucial safety.
More importantly, he successfully executed the onside kick that helped New Orleans win the Super Bowl in 2010. Coming out after halftime for the opening kickoff of the third quarter, Saints coach Sean Payton called for a surprising onside kick the Saints recovered, turned into a touchdown, and a 13-10 lead. New Orleans went on to win, 31-17.
So when you watch Sunday’s Dolphins-Green Bay game and catch a glimpse of a guy running up and down the sideline, know that it’s Morstead, and know why he’s doing what he’s doing.
“I hate to compare myself to other football players because I’m obviously in a unique position,” Morstead said, adding he doesn’t take the physical abuse others take. “But when it comes to training, and all of the daily consistencies that are required to be at the highest level all the time, I take pride in that.
“I think quite a few of my teammates probably think I’m a little nuts with some of the things I do. But they also see the oldest guy on the team, hopefully producing at a high level. And that’s one of the ways that I try to lead around here.”