Dean Muhtadi working hard for a shot at Arizona Cardinals roster
Dean Muhtadi was standing in the parking lot of a Bowie gym early last week when another member of his workout group, Minnesota Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, emerged from a black Rolls Royce Phantom.
Without saying a word, Shiancoe went to the back seat and grabbed four Nike shoe boxes. "You said size 16, right?" asked Shiancoe, as he handed Muhtadi four pairs of brand new shoes. "Here ya go."
Muhtadi has been using the same cleats he wore when he finished his career as a defensive lineman at Maryland in January 2009, much to the amusement of his training partners, Shiancoe, Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman Darnell Dockett and free agent running back Brian Westbrook.
"I literally don't think I've bought a pair of shoes since high school -- maybe some dress shoes," said Muhtadi, a 2004 T.C. Williams grad. "But you know, they've got those real big shiny rims on their cars. I've got a 2003 Hyundai Elantra with the little plastic hubcaps still."
The gift is just one way that the three established NFL veterans, all local football products, are helping Muhtadi this summer as he tries to fulfill his dream of playing in the NFL by making the Arizona Cardinals roster. During informal summer workouts away from NFL practice facilities, the animosity of players on opposing teams dissipates and a different kind of chemistry develops through the grind of hard work.
"Working out with these guys, it's a constant reminder of where I want to be," Muhtadi said. "I thought I was hungry last year, but I've kicked it to a whole other level this year. People call me crazy for all the workouts I do, but I don't rest. I just hope it pays off."
An undrafted free agent out of college, the 310-pound Muhtadi was cut by the Green Bay Packers at the end of his first training camp and spent the 2009-10 season working out and fielding calls from NFL teams while living at his mother's Alexandria home.
When nothing materialized, Muhtadi, who turned 24 Saturday , secured a job as an analyst for Merrill Lynch's D.C. office. In January, three days before he was set to begin, the Arizona Cardinals called.
After hearing about Muhtadi's work ethic at Maryland and Green Bay and viewing some of his highlights on YouTube, the team wanted to fly him to Phoenix to sign a one-year contract.
Muhtadi's relentless workout style quickly endeared him to the Cardinals, and strength and conditioning coach John Lott asked Muhtadi to become training partners this summer with Dockett, a Pro Bowl starter and first team all-pro selection in 2009. The two became friends, and when the team finished its final offseason workout last month, Dockett, a Burtonsville native, invited Muhtadi to work out with him, Westbrook, and Shiancoe.
Lott "contacted me and told me there was a guy who works really hard, pushes you to the next level, and he came out and it was everything that my coach told me," Dockett said. "Dean's trying to make his mark and I'm trying to keep my mark."
The group meets at the baseball diamond of Bowie's Glen Allen Park around 11 a.m., where Westbrook is soon chuckling about the fact that Muhtadi, despite receiving the new shoes from Shiancoe a few minutes earlier, is lacing up his old Maryland cleats.