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.
Two of the more talented, and outspoken, players in Dolphins history wore this jersey, but on different sides of the ball. However, it took a while to get to either of them, instead beginning with a player whose life ended much too soon, Rusty Chambers (1976-80). He broke into the starting lineup in 1978 at linebacker after playing as an occasional starter there the previous two years. Chambers led the team in tackles twice, including a career-high 178 stops in 1979, the most by any Dolphins player in history outside of Steve Towle and Zach Thomas. Tragically, Chambers’ life was cut short when he was killed on July 1, 1981 in a car accident not far from his home in Louisiana. Mark Brown (1983-88) followed him, starting most of the time at linebacker during his six-year Dolphins career. As a measure of his versatility, he played both inside and outside linebacker, and like Chambers, led the Dolphins in tackles twice during his days in Miami. It was next worn by colorful linebacker Bryan Cox (1991-95), one of the more popular players in team history. Cox was productive on the field - in his five seasons in Miami he made three Pro Bowls, started all 77 games in which he played, and amassed 31.5 sacks, including 14 in 1992. A fiery player, he also was known for his emotional defense of his teammates, especially in Buffalo, where he took on both players and fans. Cox was proud of the fact that he didn’t back down from anyone, including the NFL office, which made him a team leader and a fan favorite. That intense desire to prevail against any odds also served him well later on as an assistant coach in the league, including a stint as the pass rushing coach for the Dolphins in 2011. After 16 years of relative calm after that, when the jersey was worn by only one starter during that time, linebacker Akin Ayodele (2008-09), it moved to the other side of the line of scrimmage when center Mike Pouncey
(2011-current) claimed it as a rookie. A steadying influence in the middle of the Dolphins’ offensive line right from the very start, Pouncey quickly became a team leader, and his outgoing personality made him a favorite not only among his teammates but also among the team’s fans. He made the Pro Bowl last season, and most experts agree it won’t be the last time he makes the trip to Hawaii.
The complete list of Dolphins who have worn #51 includes Jerry Hopkins (1967-68); Ed Weisacosky (1968-70); Larry Ball (1972-74); Rodrigo Barnes (1975); Andy Selfridge (1976); Chambers (1976-80); Mark Brown (1983-88); Greg Clark (1989); Cox (1991-95); Anthony Harris (1996-99); Tommy Hendricks (2000-03); Tony Bua (2004); Jason Glenn (2005); Mark Washington (2007); Akin Ayodele (2008-09); Tim Dobbins (2010); and Pouncey (2011-13).
Tomorrow: Jersey #50 received national exposure before the Dolphins ever played a game. What outlet was it, and who was wearing the jersey?
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