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Happy Landing Oronde Gadsden goes to the head of the Miami receiving line

He didn't expect to be in town long, so when wideout Oronde
Gadsden traveled to Miami in August for a tryout with the
Dolphins, he packed only one change of clothes. Three months
later the 6'3", 220-pound itinerant receiver with a penchant for
clutch catches has found a home in Miami's starting lineup. "I
still have to pinch myself from time to time," says Gadsden, who
leads the Dolphins with 362 yards receiving. "It seems like
every day is the biggest day of my life."

After averaging 23.4 yards per catch and hauling in 43 touchdown
passes in three seasons at Winston-Salem State, Gadsden spent
the 1995 season on the Cowboys' practice squad and was rewarded
with a Super Bowl ring. The following year he picked up some
more hardware after breaking his orbital bone while making a
tackle on special teams in a preseason game: Doctors inserted a
metal plate in the bone area under his right eye.

Although he is blessed with huge hands (he wears a size XXXL
glove), Gadsden, with 4.7 speed in the 40, is slow by NFL
standards. He was released by the Cowboys during training camp
in '96, then waived by the Steelers during the '97 preseason. So
he gave the Arena Football League a shot last summer, and he
finally got to showcase his skills as a receiver while doubling
up at linebacker for the Portland Forest Dragons. After scoring
37 touchdowns in 14 games, Gadsden was named rookie of the year.
Then came the call from the Dolphins.

Already thin at wideout, Miami was in desperate need after Yatil
Green and rookie Larry Shannon went down with torn anterior
cruciate ligaments in training camp. Gadsden was summoned and
wound up leading Miami with nine catches for 165 yards in the
preseason. Then in the regular-season opener, against the Colts,
he outleaped cornerback Tyrone Poole for a pass from Dan Marino
and chugged 44 yards for a touchdown, carrying Colts strong
safety Robert Blackmon for the last several yards. The following
week Gadsden became only the fourth Arena player to start an NFL

He is averaging a team-high 15.7 yards per catch, and in a 12-9
overtime win over the Patriots on Oct. 25, he set up the tying
and winning field goals with grabs of 28 and 10 yards,
respectively, in heavy traffic. "He's the only guy on this team
who could have made those plays," says Miami receivers coach
Robert Ford. "Here's a guy with a dream to play in the NFL who
has proven you don't have to be Superman to make it." --D.F.

COLOR PHOTO: RICHARD MACKSON Gadsden has hauled in three scoring passes.[Oronde Gadsden catching while Donovan Greer tackles from behind]