Found October 12, 2012 on
Fox Sports Florida:
DAVIE, Fla. It has been 27 years since a white receiver led the NFL in receiving yards.
Could Miami's Brian Hartline be the next?
Through five games, Hartline tops the league in receiving yards with 514. If that holds up, he would be the first white player to lead the NFL in the category since Seattles Steve Largent in 1985.
However, with nearly half his yards (253) coming in a Sept. 30 game at Arizona, it remains to be seen whether Hartline will have staying power among the receiving yardage leaders.
One reason he just might -- speed. It's not a word usually thrown around to describe the white NFL wideout, but Hartline has it in spades.
The fourth-year Dolphins receiver, who has run the 40-yard dash in 4.52 and was a high school and college track star, doesnt doubt it might help that defensive backs underestimate his swiftness.
When it comes down to it, its reading a book by its cover, and you only have a week to prepare, said Hartline, the only white player among Miamis six receivers and one of just 9 percent on NFL rosters.
So theres judgments that have to be made and thats just part of the game. You have a select number of white guys that play receiver. The ones that do maybe arent as fast."
Hartline said the stereotype that white receivers arent supposed to be fast often comes up among his teammates. But he stresses its mostly of the joking nature.
My teammates, we kind of play with it a little," Hartline said.
All offseason, all he heard was how weak the Dolphins were at receiver after Brandon Marshall's trade to Chicago. He then proceeded to miss the entire preseason recovering from a calf injury.
But even with a rookie quarterback (Ryan Tannehill) at the helm, Hartline has been able to put up some impressive stats.
The fourth-year man from Ohio State has caught 29 passes for an average of 17.7 yards, which ranks eighth in the NFL. He has five receptions of 30 or more yards, including grabs of 57 and 80 yards against the Cardinals.
Compare those numbers with that of New England's Wes Welker, one of the NFL's most accomplished white pass catchers over the past six years. While Welker is second in the league with 38 catches this season, he is averaging just 12.7 yards per grab.
Of the 18 white wide receivers on NFL rosters, Hartline is the only one in the top 10 in yards per reception.
I think a lot of DBs will underestimate him because of his skin and, Oh, as a white receiver, he cant run past me,'" said Miami receiver Marlon Moore. But thats a bunch of (nonsense)."
Hartline has what Dolphins cornerback Sean Smith calls sneaky speed." He showed it off at times in his first three seasons, catching 109 passes for an average of 15.3 yards.
He has gotten his opportunity to shine this season due to the departure of Marshall and claims hes not stunned when he looks at the receiving yardage leaders and sees his name on top.
Nothing surprises me because Ive put in a lot of work over the years," he said. I think it surprised everybody else, but it doesnt surprise me."
Hartline did admit astonishment when he learned that Largent, the Hall of Famer who also led the NFL in receiving yards in 1979, is the only white player to have topped the category since the start of the 1977 season.
Black guys have dominated the position for a long time," Hartline said. I didnt think itd be (27 years since a white receiver has led in yardage). Now, you wonder why people take judgment on wide receivers. I dont blame them. Track record is track record."
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson
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