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.
There must be something about this number that makes its wearer want to stick his nose into the line and pick up some difficult yardage from the fullback position. The first player of that ilk was Don Nottingham (1973-77), best known to Dolphin fans as “the Human Bowling Ball” because of short (5’10”) frame that made him very hard to tackle. He was acquired by the Dolphins midway through the 1973 season and was part of the Dolphins’ Super Bowl VIII championship team that season. Two years later in 1975, when Larry Csonka bolted to the World Football League, Nottingham took his place in the starting lineup at fullback and proved to be a major surprise, rushing for 718 yards and 12 touchdowns. His 12 rushing TDs was the fourth highest total by anyone in the NFL that season and remains tied for the fourth highest single season total in Dolphin history. Unfortunately, Nottingham broke his shoulder blade in 1978 and retired shortly after that. The number was then worn by fullbacks such as Steve Howell (1979-81), who had the unenviable position of taking over for Csonka following Zonk’s retirement after the 1979 season, and Tom Brown (1987-89) who started seven games in 1989. The next starter to wear it was Stanley Pritchett (1996-99), who started all 16 games as a rookie in 1996 and 22 more the next three years. He was mainly used as a receiver and a blocker, never carrying the ball more than seven times until 1999, when he suddenly had 47 carries to go along with his 43 catches. The number was also worn by Lousaka Polite (2008-2010), another tough fullback who was a short yardage specialist. He certainly was successful in that role, picking up 11 first downs in 12 attempts on 3rd or 4th and one in 2008, going a perfect 16-for-16 in those situations the following season and then was 14 of 15 in 2010, his last year in Miami.
The complete list of Dolphins who have worn #36 includes Preston Carpenter (1966); Charles Leigh (1972); Nottingham (1973-77); Howell (1979-81); Brown (1987-89); Stephen Braggs (1992-93); Pritchett (1996-99); Darian Barnes (2005-06); Polite (2008-10); Tyrone Culver (2012); and Don Jones
One of the greatest running backs in Chicago Bears history wore # 35 in Miami, but he also made a unique mark when he was with the Dolphins – he was the first player to score an offensive touchdown in team history. Can you name him?
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