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.
Like the number that preceded it (34), this number also was worn by some pretty good running backs in Dolphins history. It started the first year, with running back Billy Joe (1966), who unfortunately had his best games behind him when he joined the Dolphins. He was the big name offensively (Wahoo McDaniel was the big catch defensively) among the players Miami selected in the 1966 expansion draft. He was only three years removed from being named as the AFL’s Rookie of the Year in 1963 with the Denver Broncos. He was then traded to the Buffalo Bills in 1965, in exchange, ironically enough, for fullback Cookie Gilchrist - the two would later be united as teammates a year later with the expansion Dolphins. Joe went on to make the AFL All-Star team in ’65, but the Bills exposed him in the expansion draft where he became the Dolphins’ prized offensive pick. But Joe didn’t achieve that same success in Miami, rushing for 232 yards his one year with the Dolphins while splitting the fullback duties with Gilchrist. After his career ended, he did go on to be a successful college head coach for 33 years, winning two NAIA Championships and making the College Football Hall of Fame. The jersey was then worn by a number of reserve running backs until 1989, when first round draft pick Sammie Smith (1989-91) wore it. Smith was an immediate starter as a rookie, but despite leading the Dolphins in rushing his first two years in the league, he was never a fan favorite. Dolphin acolytes never felt he lived up to his first round billing, in part because of some fumbles at inopportune times. The next player to wear the jersey was a little more successful – running back Karim Abdul-Jabbar (1996-99). He joined the Dolphins amidst some confusion, in part fueled by his jersey number. Coming out of UCLA, he wore the name number and had a similar name to another Bruin great, basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and many Dolphin fans thought they might be related in some fashion. But that wasn’t the case, and the Dolphins’ Abdul-Jabbar carved out an identity of his own in Miami. As a rookie he led the Dolphins in rushing in 1996 with 1,116 yards, the first time a Dolphin runner cracked the 1,000 yards rushing barrier in 18 years, dating back to Delvin Williams’ 1,258 yards in 1978. Abdul-Jabbar rushed for 892 yards and 15 touchdowns the following season and his rushing TD total that year still is the second highest single season figure in Dolphin history. But Abdul-Jabbar never seemed to get his due and despite rushing for another 960 yards in 1998, he was replaced in the starting lineup the following season by J.J. Johnson. One of the more underrated players in Dolphin history, Abdul-Jabbar still ranks seventh among the team’s all-time leading rushers and is a surprising fourth in career rushing touchdowns behind Larry Csonka, Ricky Williams, and Ronnie Brown, all of whom played considerably longer in Miami than he did. The jersey is now being worn by running back Daniel Thomas
(2011-current), who is working hard add his own history to that number.
The complete list of Dolphins who have worn #33 includes Billy Joe (1966); Hubert Ginn (1974); Stan Winfrey (1975-77); Billy Cesare (1980); Bo Matthews (1981); Rich Diana (1982); Craig Ellis (1986); *Ronald Scott (1987); Sammie Smith (1989-91); Karim Abdul-Jabbar (1996-99); Deon Dyer (2000-02); Vick King (2004); Jereme Perry (2007); Nate Jones (2008-09); and Daniel Thomas (2011-13).
The first Dolphin to wear #32 scored the team’s first-ever regular season touchdown. Can you name the player and the way he scored that TD?
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