FORT LAUDERDALE -- Growing up around professional football teams, NFL stadiums were young Dax Dellenbach's playground.
Routinely, he and his friends found themselves running through tunnels obscure to the television-viewing and ticket-purchasing public like it was normal. Often they would find their way into luxury boxes, curious what they might find there.
Specifically, Joe/Pro Player/Dolphin/Dolphins/LandShark/Sun Life Stadium was the venue he would regularly explore. The son of former Miami Dolphins center Jeff Dellenbach, Dax practically lived in the building. Since opening in 1987, the Dolphins have played in the stadium. The Florida Marlins and Miami Hurricanes have shared it at points since, too.
"Put it this way," Dax Dellenbach said, "I know everything there is to know about that stadium."
Fittingly, that stadium whose every nook and cranny, crease and crevice the current Florida State long-snapper knows well, will be the place that closes out his collegiate career.
With his eye soon glancing toward a hopeful NFL future of his own, Dax Dellenbach will play his final game in a Seminoles uniform Tuesday night when 12th-ranked FSU takes on Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl. It will be the only Orange Bowl Dellenbach would have been part of as a player.
"It's a huge deal getting to play there because I grew up watching my dad play there, and my dad coached there," Dax Dellenbach said.
When the season started, long before FSU went on the 11-2 run that allowed it to plow through the ACC championship game and toward its ninth Orange Bowl appearance, Dax Dellenbach had a sneaking premonition.
"This is like my prediction from the beginning of the year that I would be thrilled to death if I made it to the Orange Bowl because that means my last college game ever is in my home stadium in front of my family," Dax Dellenbach said.
Following Tuesday's game, the senior will relocate from Tallahassee to his native South Florida, where he will rest before beginning training for the NFL selection process. Long-snappers don't often get drafted, but good ones in both the NFL and college ranks are hard to come by. Since playing at FSU, Dellenbach has snapped for All-America punter Shawn Powell and All-ACC kicker Dustin Hopkins.
Powell and Hopkins both missed out on claiming the nation's top kicking honors at their respective positions, but their numbers told slightly different stories. Powell led the nation in net punting average last season before getting snubbed for the Ray Guy Award. Hopkins set a pair of conference records and another all-time NCAA mark earlier this season. He missed out on the Lou Groza Award.
In addition to shooting the ball to kickers like Powell and Hopkins, Dellenbach also has made a name for himself in long-snapping circles for his ability to get downfield quickly on punts. He routinely is one of the first defensive players in the vicinity when punt returners either field, fair catch or let punts pass.
Dellenbach has four tackles in his three-year career. He had two in 2010 and two last season.
Late next month, he'll be attempting to make the senior bowl game circuit. Although he still is deciding which all-star games he will compete in, Dellenbach has received an invite to the Raycom All-Star Game, and is on the watch list for the Senior Bowl. A spot in the Senior Bowl could open up for him.
All of those post-college concerns will take care of themselves in due time, though. For now, Dellenbach is focused on putting on the best show he can for the countless people he will have attending Tuesday's game.
"I literally don't have a head count of who all's going to be there," he said. "I'm not supplying tickets for them all.
"After every game there, I'll get a couple of pictures of me added to Facebook -- just people I know randomly taking pictures in the crowd. I'll get tagged in them and be like, 'Oh, you were there?' So it's cool knowing that I know, but I don't know who all the people who are there."
Earlier this season, in his final regular-season game at Sun Life Stadium, Dellenbach walked off the field a winner. The Seminoles beat the Miami Hurricanes, 33-20. It was the second time in two tries that Dellenbach had been part of an FSU win at Sun Life.