Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 1/24/13

MIAMI - 2009: Jeff Ireland of the Miami Dolphins poses for his 2009 NFL headshot at photo day in Miami, Florida. (Photo by NFL Photos)
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. Jeff Ireland holds one of the most scrutinized jobs in South Florida as general manager of the Miami Dolphins. Admitting hes in a big offseason for us, Ireland perhaps faces more pressure than at any point during his five years on the job. But every night he goes home, Ireland embraces another challenge raising 17-year-old autistic twin daughters Haley and Hannah. It grounds you, because you know theres something bigger than football, Ireland said before leaving for the Senior Bowl. Thats hard for me to say, because I live in a world where nothings been bigger than football my entire life. But when you have kids, you have a wife, and you have a family, you learn very quickly that that is your passion -- helping them, making sure they are provided for, and making sure they have everything they need. Most people have heard the term autism, though many cannot sufficiently define it. It is a developmental disorder that appears in the first 3 years of life, and affects the brain's normal development of social and communication skills. Autistic people often are extremely intelligent, though they lack the ability to clearly express themselves and display repetitive behavior. Its estimated that 1 in 88 children (1 in 54 boys) will be diagnosed with autism. When Ireland accepted the Dolphins GM job in 2008 and moved his family from Dallas to South Florida, he and wife Rachel relied greatly on Dan and Claire Marino. The Hall of Fame quarterback and his wife, parents of an autistic son, started the Dan Marino Foundation in 1992 with hopes of helping other families affected by autism and other developmental disabilities. The foundation has accomplished much in its 20 years, including partnering with Miamis Children Hospital to open the Dan Marino Center in Weston, Fla. The Center provides treatments and therapies for children with developmental disabilities. The next project is the planned 2014 opening of a vocational college in Fort Lauderdale. The Irelands will join the Marinos at Sun Life Stadium this Saturday morning for the Dan Marino Foundation WalkAbout Autism, a fundraising effort that generates awareness and crucial funds for autism services. Michael Marino, 24, was diagnosed when he was 3 and his father was quarterbacking the Dolphins. He now shows virtually no signs of being autistic, and works as a South Florida DJ. He also co-hosts a Sunday morning sports talk show on 560-AM WQAM. Although its hard to fathom, Dan Marino might be better known by future generations for the foundation and its affiliations than his football career. It seems crazy to think like that, but its the same way with the Joe DiMaggio Childrens Hospital, Mike Marino said. "There are people who dont know who Joe DiMaggio was as a baseball player but they know the hospital. As much as my Dad loves his playing career, I think he would take a lot of pride in the foundation being even more of his legacy that his playing career. Mike Marino recently joined the foundations board and is heavily involved with the formation of the vocational college. Somebody has got to be able to take the reins, Mike said. Its one of those things where my parents want me in on it now so can learn what were all about and I can pass that on. Ireland, too, has become a spokesperson for autism awareness and the Dan Marino Foundation. As the father of autistic teenagers, he understands the need for a learning facility for autistic young adults. Were no longer in the diaper stage, or the toddler stage. Weve got developing young ladies, said Ireland, who also has a son, Riley, 11, and daughter Annie, 6. So our whole phase of autism is a different phase. Were now trying to get them intertwined with the real world. Whereas it used to be trying to teach Haley and Hannah how to read, write and communicate, Ireland says not its about helping them understand money and how to balance a checkbook. They currently are high school sophomores at a specialized school."There are so many dynamics involved with teenage girls. You have puberty, you have teenagers and you have autism and you have all three things hitting at the same time,Ireland said. Sometimes you dont know, is that the autism talking or is that the 17-year-old back-talking teenager? Holding the title of Dolphins general manager fails to help in such situations. My girls dont care what I do, they dont, he said. Sometimes Im not even sure they know what I do. So when I walk in the door, Im just Dad, and thats a great thing.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Brian Cashman defends A-Rod despite season's struggles

Report: Charles’ workload won’t be limited if healthy

Report: Westbrook doesn’t want trade, will think about extension

Chargers don’t know if Joey Bosa will report to camp

Report: RG3 to be given four out of five first-team reps

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Peterson likely entering last season with Vikings

Cubs trade for Chapman a risk, but potential payoff too hard to ignore

Wisconsin kicker will wear 27 to honor Nebraska's Sam Foltz

Dennis Schroder wears disguise to play in German streetball tournament

Browns indicate they will give Josh Gordon another chance

Prince Fielder to undergo season-ending neck surgery

Top five storylines heading into MLB trade deadline

Angels listening to offers on Hector Santiago

Chris Sale’s so-called ‘apology’ was anything but

Ten hottest golfers heading into 2016 PGA Championship

Five NFL sophomores poised to break out in 2016

Tre Mason's family concerned about RB's mental health?

Dion Waiters' deal signals the end of the 2016 money grab

Tom Jackson could leave ESPN after almost three decades

Cavs sign coach Tyronn Lue to a five-year extension

More than 10,000 people registered for Jaguars Pokemon Go night

NFL issues new concussion protocol

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

Effect of ban on Russia could span beyond the Olympic Games

One Gotta Go: NBA players hate Facebook too

QUIZ: Name every city to host the NBA All-Star Game

One Gotta Go: NBA players settle the fast food beef

One Gotta Go: NBA players make tough choices on their favorite rappers

One Gotta Go: NBA Summer League is not about that Game of Thrones life

The top NHL free agents available as offseason winds down

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker