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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group

From Rock Valley to ‘Hard Knocks,’ Dolphins LB Andrew Van Ginkel has arrived

In 2019, the Miami Dolphins drafted a linebacker in the fifth round of the NFL draft. It was a draft in which the Dolphins were without second and fourth-round selections.

General manager Chris Grier started the process in the first round with a hit by the name of Christian Wilkins. Later in the draft, on the third day, Andrew Van Ginkel’s name was called.

The outside linebacker from Wisconsin was first a quarterback in high school in the small town of Rock Valley, Iowa before switching to defensive end at South Dakota, a Football Championship Subdivision school.

In what’s become a heart-warming and full-circle story, Van Ginkel has had a rollercoaster year, and that has nothing to do with an offensive touchdown celebration.

A touchdown scorer in his own right, with three in his 4.5 seasons as a pro, with one as recent as last Sunday against the Washington Commanders, Van Ginkel and his family were featured on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” show on Tuesday night.

Van Ginkel had a fine season in 2022 and has always made the most of his snaps on both defense as well as special teams. However, when pass-rusher Jaelan Phillips injured his Achilles against the Jets in Week 12, the door opened for Van Ginkel to be the guy to help Miami not lose ground or take a step back with the loss of a player as important as Phillips.

In the three games that Phillips missed with an injury earlier in the year, and before the Commanders game, the four sacks made by Van Ginkel this season all came in contests he was in for his fellow outside linebacker.

On Sunday, he played the game of his life, scoring a touchdown on an interception return, recording a pass defensed and hitting Commanders quarterback Sam Howell early in the game, which led to teammates Zach Sieler and Bradley Chubb getting credit for the joint sack.

It’s when Van Ginkel plays heavy snaps that the Dolphins have remarkably correlated success.  Miami is 9-1 during Van Ginkel’s career when he plays more than 80% of the defensive snaps in a game and 3-0 this season in these occurrences. Even further, when playing over 70%  of the snaps on defense in his career, they’re 16-6.

So far this season, Van Ginkel has 47 tackles, four sacks, 12 quarterback hits, seven tackles for loss and six passes defensed. He’s been tasked with inside linebacker duties throughout this season as well and has proven to be an overall defensive weapon for Miami, being all over the field in every capacity you can ask out of a linebacker.

As a pass-rusher, Van Ginkel has graded among the elite this year, and his pass-rushing prowess has been timed as one of if not the fastest to the quarterback on pressures in the entire league.

He’s done all of this while in another contract year, as he was last offseason.

Van Ginkel had the opportunity from several other teams over the winter to get a significant pay increase as well as a locked-down starting role. However, he chose to bet on himself and took a one-year deal from Miami. The Dolphins did what they needed to do to retain him and keep him around for this year, with hopes to talk again after a successful campaign.

The former Badger has held up his end of the bargain, and now it’s time for this 2019 draft pick to vest and for this linebacker to get what he financially deserves – a lucrative and multi-year deal with the Dolphins.

Van Ginkel’s success has even attracted the attention of super-agent Drew Rosenhaus. Earlier this year, the Miami-based agent signed Van Ginkel and is now the man to work his contract negotiations.

Following Tuesday’s “Hard Knocks” episode, which also featured Andrew’s wife, Samantha, and their two young children at their home, the stock has gone up for the versatile linebacker and his team at home. As shown in the episode, the Van Ginkels were high-school sweethearts, and their journey to the NFL has been in constant lock-step.

Following the momentum of this outstanding year he’s putting together, as well as the HBO crowd-pleaser, the Dolphins fan base is already clamoring to keep “Gink,” as he’s affectionately called by teammates and head coach Mike McDaniel, home.

As seen in the episode, McDaniel handed Van Ginkel a game ball, while using typical vocabulary that captured how much this linebacker means to his team, teammates and fans. The latter, of course, took to social media, as Dolphins fans were glowing with pride, as shown through posts across several platforms.

What resonated the most was the expression on Van Ginkel’s face when receiving that game ball. It was a look of joy, relief, belonging and, perhaps, a fight with happy tears building up.

Following the accolades, “Hard Knocks” captured and closed the episode with Andrew calling Samantha, as the Dolphins fan base watched with pride and happiness, almost as much as the Van Ginkels themselves.

From Rock Valley, Iowa to Hard Rock Stadium and now “Hard Knocks,” it’s official – Andrew Van Ginkel is a hit.

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