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99 Days Of 99 Jersey Numbers: #32

Posted Aug 6, 2014

A lot of good, but not great, Dolphins wore this number, starting the very first year by running back Joe Auer.

As we tick the days off to the season opener against the Patriots on Sept. 7, each day we highlight the players who wore that particular jersey number during their tenure in Miami. In some cases, the player and jersey number are synonymous. In other cases, the jersey number represents sustained greatness at a particular position. Whatever the case may be, jersey numbers are an important part of the fabric of professional football.

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A lot of good, but not great, Dolphins wore this number, starting the very first year by running back Joe Auer (1966-67). He is best known by Dolphin fans for scoring the first touchdown in team history, and in an extraordinary way. It came on the very first play of Miami’s existence, returning the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown in the Dolphins’ inaugural game on September 2, 1996 vs. Oakland at the Orange Bowl. But that historic play overshadowed his overall contributions that first season, when he led the Dolphins in rushing and finished third in receptions, becoming one of the first stars of the team. It was worn next by Hubert Ginn (1970-73), a pretty good runner who averaged over four yards a carry during his Dolphin career but had the misfortune of being on the same team as Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Mercury Morris, thereby denying him the playing time his talents deserved. One of the more unheralded Dolphins running backs, Benny Malone (1974-78), wore it next, and he played well in Miami, leading the Dolphins in rushing for two consecutive seasons  - 1976-77  -  before Delvin Williams joined the team in 1978 and took over as the starter.  Tommy Vigorito (1981-85), who played everywhere  -  running back, receiver, punt returner  - was next. He contributed in any way he was asked, even leading the Dolphins in receptions one season (albeit a strike shortened one), in 1982 when they advanced all the way to Super Bowl XVII. But he made his biggest impact returning punts and still ranks among the top five Dolphins in career punt returns, yards, and average, while his 87-yard punt return for a touchdown on Sept. 10, 1981 vs. Pittsburgh remains tied for the longest punt return in Dolphin history. After that the number was primarily worn by a series of reserve running backs, with two exceptions, players at different position who both were viewed as somewhat of a disappointment. The first was running back J.J. Johnson (1999-01), the team’s first pick in the 1999 college draft. Johnson did lead the Dolphins in rushing as a rookie, but lost his starting job the next year when the team acquired Lamar Smith and never got it back. The second was defensive back Jason Allen (2006-10), who Nick Saban took with the team’s first round pick in the 2006 college draft. Although he played five years for the Dolphins, Allen was moved back and forth between safety and cornerback and never really found a home at either position. 

The complete list of Dolphins who have worn #32 includes Joe Auer (1966-67); Hubert Ginn (1970-73); Benny Malone (1974-78); Tom Vigorito (1981-85); Donald Brown (1986); *Pete Roth (1987); Garrett Limbrick (1990); Bruce Alexander (1992-93); Aaron Craver  (1994); Cleveland Gary (1994); Jerris McPhail (1996-97); J.J. Johnson (1999-01); Charlie Rogers (2003); Jamar Martin (2004); Jason Allen (2006-10); Nate Ness (2010); Nate Jones (2011); Jonathan Wade (2011); Michael Coe (2012); Dimitri Patterson (2012-13).

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Tomorrow: A running back wearing # 31 unexpectedly wound up leading the Dolphins in rushing in 2004 following Ricky Williams’ abrupt departure right before training camp started that season. Who was he? Bonus question: A defensive back who wore # 31 was named to the Pro Bowl the same year as two other teammates in Miami’s defensive backfield, the only time in Dolphin history three DBs made the Pro Bowl the same season. Can you name the trio (including the one who wore # 31) who made the Pro Bowl the same year?

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