This was five minutes before the Miami Dolphins were supposed to hold their first meeting of the week with Coach Don Shula, and A.J. Duhe was a little worried about the time.
"Just one more question," he kept saying to a small group of reporters outside the Dolphin training complex. But one more question turned into six more questions and A.J. Duhe just couldn't stop talking.
He never can.
"A.J.'s our fire-up guy," says his teammate, nose guard Bob Baumhower. "It's the fourth quarter, everybody's draggin' but there's ol' A.J. just ready to go. It makes everybody play better."
"When you're tired and you see him still jumping around, it lifts you," said defensive end Kim Bokamper. "He's definitely a leader, and definitely not a silent leader."
Says safety Mike Kozlowski: "He lights us up."
Last Sunday, of course, he nearly single-handedly burned up the N.Y. Jets in the AFC championship game. Seven tackles in Miami's 14-0 win. Three interceptions. The second set up Miami's first touchdown. The last was a 35-yard run with a screen pass thrown by Richard Todd. Richard Todd plays for the Jets.
Miami Coach Don Shula said Duhe's performance was the best he'd ever seen by a linebacker. And now, quite obviously, Shula is thoroughly delighted that he took the advice of a Palm Beach sportswriter three years ago and switched Duhe from down lineman to a linebacker.
"We drafted A.J. No. 1 a while back and we had to find a spot for his leadership," Shula said. "He's an emotional guy who can turn a game around with those big plays. The thing we noticed immediately was Duhe's ability to run. He runs so smoothly."
Shula has not always felt that way. "Yes, he said, "there were times in the past when he was learning the position that we had some problems. It's been painful at times for us and for him. He's a guy who had so much natural ability, but he was an undersized defensive end. Then we made the switch with Bokamper from the line to linebacker. Those two moves have really helped this defense."
In the beginning, Duhe said he was not convinced he could make the transition to linebacker.
"I just thought they were trying to tell me to pack my bags and go somewhere else," Duhe said. "But then Coach Shula called me in and told me they were doing it because they thought I could help the defense. He told me, 'We're not just going to let you play linebacker. If you can't make the adjustment, you won't play.' So there was really a lot of pressure put on me to make the adjustment. I took pride in it."
In the beginning, Duhe's biggest problem was in pass coverage. At 248 pounds, he was having difficulty covering the quicker backs. Defensive Coordinator Bill Arnsparger has tried to adjust the defense to help Duhe in those situations, and his coverage clearly has improved.
Arnsparger also shifts Duhe all over the field. Against the Jets, he was everywhere, and the Redskins probably can expect more of the same.
Duhe has always been a big-play man. He reportedly earned a scholarship to LSU only after he blocked three punts in a high school all-star game. At LSU, he was a four-year starter. As a rookie, he led the Dolphins in sacks.
He also leads the team in butterflies. The night before a big game, he says he can hardly sleep. His teammates know when Duhe is primed by the way he talks. The more he talks, the better he plays.
Not everyone is all that impressed with Duhe. After the New York game, the Miami News asked his wife Frances--the 1980 Orange Bowl queen--about her husband's three interceptions. "I didn't know he had those kind of hands," she said. "At home, he's always dropping dishes."