DAVIE, Fla. — Don Jones remembers how big Monday Night Football was when growing up in tiny Town Creek, Ala.
“It’s a small country town,” Jones said. “There are 1,400 people there. I’d say 1,359 were watching. It’s a big little sports town.”
Well, beef that number up.
“Hopefully, all 1,400 will be watching (Monday). I’m serious. All 1,400 now,” Jones said.
That’s because Jones, a rookie safety for the Miami Dolphins, will make his Monday Night Football debut at New Orleans. Jones likely only will be on special teams but perhaps could make another big play. In a 27-23 win last Sunday over Atlanta, Jones forced a third-quarter fumble that led to a Miami touchdown.
If you make plays like that on Monday Night Football, you get noticed. Everybody is watching, from Town Creek to Battle Creek.
“Monday nights are huge,” Miami receiver Brian Hartline said. “You’re put in front of the world and put in front of the big stage. It’s always enjoyable. So we’re looking forward to it.”
The Dolphins are really eyeing this one. They haven’t played on Monday since 2011. They haven’t won such a game since 2009, having lost three straight.
But now is as good of a time as any to end that. The Dolphins are 3-0 for the first time since 2002. A win over the 3-0 Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome really could get the attention of the NFL world.
“It’s very exciting just to be playing on national TV,” Dolphins running back Lamar Miller said. “We’ve just got to come out and continue to show the world that we’ll be a tough team to beat.”
Miller, a second-year man, also will be making his Monday Night Football debut. So will some other notable Dolphins.
Ryan Tannehill has shown in the first three weeks he’s deserving of being mentioned in the same sentence as other 2012 rookie quarterbacks Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson. Now, after winning games over Indianapolis and Luck and Atlanta and Matt Ryan, he can try to do it against New Orleans and Hall of Fame-bound quarterback Drew Brees.
“It’s something I’m looking forward to,” Tannehill said. “It’s going to be a tough environment, expecting a really deafening crowd in New Orleans. We’re going to have to be good.”
Also making his debut on the Monday stage will be rookie defensive Dion Jordan. When growing up in San Francisco, it was a dream of his.
“Every kid would like to be on prime time,” Jordan said. “There’s only one game on Monday. Everybody is going to be watching.”
Actually, when Miami center Mike Pouncey made his NFL regular-season debut, he was part of night when there were two Monday games. That was the 2011 opener, when the Dolphins lost to New England 38-24 in the last Monday game in Miami and the first game that night of an ESPN doubleheader.
Never mind that. Pouncey will never forget the atmosphere.
“The fans were excited,” Pouncey said. “They were believing in us. The Patriots beat us, but it was a heck of an experience. It’s a good game to play.”
Dolphins guard Richie Incognito, an eight-year veteran, appeared in his first Monday game in 2006 with St. Louis. He admits it was “not a good memory” seeing Chicago’s Devin Hester that night return two kickoffs for touchdowns in a 42-27 Bears win.
Nevertheless, Incognito loves playing on Monday. He’s excited to see the Dolphins back on the night.
“It’s definitely special,” he said. “All your friends are watching, the whole nation is watching. I grew up (in Arizona) watching Monday Night Football, so I get excited.”
It was less exciting the last time Incognito and the Dolphins appeared on Monday. They were 0-4 heading into an Oct. 17, 2011 game at the 2-3 New York Jets, which they would lose 24-6.
Now, it’s a battle of two undefeated teams.
“The storyline is going to be two 3-0 teams battling it out on Monday Night Football,” Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes said. “That will be cool. It will be a great atmosphere in that building.”
Grimes said if the Dolphins win and are “4-0, a lot of attention will come with that.” Everybody sure would be excited in Town Creek, Ala.