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.
This is one of those numbers dominated by one player, and an underrated one at that - cornerback Curtis Johnson (1970-78). He was picked by the Dolphins in the fourth round of the 1970 draft, broke into the starting lineup as a rookie and stayed there throughout his nine-year Dolphins (and NFL) career. He was a key starter on two Super Bowl winning teams, including the “Perfect Season” in 1972, and picked off a Fran Tarkenton pass in Super Bowl VIII. He had 22 career interceptions to rank 10th on the Dolphins’ all-time list, and his 111 regular season starts is one of the highest totals by any Miami defensive back. Most Dolphins fans would easily conjure up the names of Dick Anderson and Jake Scott when asked to name the starting DBs on those great teams, but many would be hard pressed to come up with Johnson’s name, despite all of his accomplishments in Miami, making him one of the most underrated players in team history. After Johnson, the jersey was worn by a number of backup defensive backs, including Ed Taylor (1979-82) and Bobby Harden (1990-93), but only one other starter, Brian Walker (1997-98, 2000-01), who played well at strong safety his second stint with the team. The only offensive player to wear it was fullback Reagan Mauia (2007), who was more known for a video showing him running through a wall in college than anything he did as a Dolphins player.
The complete list of Dolphins who have worn #45 includes Mack Lamb (1967-68); Johnson (1970-78); Taylor (1979-82); Robert Sowell (1983-85); *Trell Hooper (1987); Rodney Thomas (1988); Bobby Harden (1990-93); Brian Walker (1997-98, 2000-01); Lamont Brightful (2004); Mauia (2007); and Austin Spitler (2013).
What player not only wore #44 as a Dolphin, but also in college, where it had a unique legacy as one of the most storied jerseys in the history of college football? And can you name the three College Football Hall of Fame players who wore the jersey at this player’s alma mater before he did?
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