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 jersey got off to an auspicious debut, as it was the first one in Dolphins history to garner national attention when Frank Emanuel (1966-69) appeared in full color on the cover of the August 8, 1966 edition of Sports Illustrated posing in his game uniform to go along with a feature story in the magazine about the new pro football team in Miami. Alas, Emanuel’s brush with national glory was short lived, although he did play well during his four years in Miami. He immediately stepped in as the starting middle linebacker at the beginning of his rookie season and two years later, in 1968, he led the Dolphins with 119 tackles. Unfortunately, like # 51 before it, this jersey was also touched by tragedy. It was worn by Larry Gordon (1976-82), who started every season with the Dolphins since the team drafted him in first round in 1976. A member of the early “Killer B’s” defense, he finished tied for second on the team in sacks in the Dolphins’ Super Bowl season of 1982, when he also broke Nick Buoniconti’s team record for most career starts by a linebacker. Poised to really become a force on the defense, Gordon, like his former teammate Rusty Chambers before him, passed away long before his time, collapsing while jogging in the desert in Arizona on June 25, 1983. The next starter to wear the jersey, linebacker Jackie Shipp (1984-87) was a player who many Dolphin fans believe was one of the team’s biggest draft disappointments. Don Shula traded up in the 1984 draft to make him the 14th overall selection after an outstanding collegiate career at Oklahoma. He was hoping that Shipp could fill the void at linebacker created by the recent, and sudden, losses of Gordon and Chambers. Shipp did develop into a starter at inside linebacker in 1985 and was a mainstay at that position for three years, but in the eyes of many never did live up to his lofty draft status. A few years after Shipp, Dwight Hollier (1992-99) took over possession of the jersey and wore it longer than any other Dolphin. A versatile player, Hollier started at every linebacker position and played well during his career in Miami. Dolphin fans are hoping that the next starter to wear the jersey becomes one of the best - current defensive end Olivier Vernon
(2012-current), who had a breakout year last season when he led the Dolphins with 11.5 sacks.
The complete list of Dolphins who have worn #50 includes Emanuel (1966-69); Dick Palmer (1970); Bruce Elia (1975); Gordon (1976-82); Shipp (1984-87); *Greg Storr (1987); Shipp (1987-88); Dave Ahrens (1989); Louis Cooper (1991); Hollier (1992-99); Michael Hamilton (2000); Brendon Ayanbadejo (2003-04); Nick Rogers (2005); Edmond Miles (2007); Erik Walden (2008-09); Bobby Carpenter (2010); Marvin Mitchell (2011); and Vernon (2012-13).
Tomorrow: What player who wore jersey #49 had more interceptions than any cornerback in Dolphin history besides Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain?
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