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.
Sometimes it only takes one person to create something memorable, and that was pretty much the case with this jersey number. It was first worn by John Bramlett (1967-68), who was a starter at linebacker his two years with the team. It picked up steam when linebacker Mike Kolen (1970-77) wore it during his eight-year Dolphin career. Kolen was a starter most of his tenure with the Dolphins, including their two Super Bowl championship seasons. Known as “Captain Crunch” for his hard-hitting style of play, Kolen was a key cog in the great “No-Name” defense. As good as Kolen was, the next player to wear the jersey was even better. In fact, he proved to be one of the very best to ever play his position – center Dwight Stephenson (1980-87). His college coach at Alabama, the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant, called him the “greatest center I ever coached” and Don Shula probably would say the same thing. Selected to five straight Pro Bowls, Stephenson’s career ended prematurely after suffering torn anterior cruciate and lateral colateral ligaments in his left knee late in 1987 when he was hit unexpectedly by the New York Jets’ Marty Lyons on a Jets’ fumble return. As a mark of the respect Stephenson earned during his career, he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame despite only playing eight years in the league. Stephenson made the jersey a special one, and it wouldn’t be fair to expect anyone else who wore that jersey to live up to that legacy. That is exactly what happened; only one player after Stephenson wore the jersey for more than two seasons, and none of them were starters.
The complete list of Dolphins who have worn #57 includes Bramlett (1967-68); Sean Clancy (1978); Kolen (1970-77); Stephenson (1980-87); *Scott Nicolas (1987); Tom Thayer (1993); Dion Foxx (1994-95); O.J. Brigance (1997-99); Corey Moore (2001); Corey Jenkins (2003-04); Lester Towns (2005); Keith Adams (2006); Andy Alleman (2008); Micah Johnson (2010); and Josh Kaddu (2012-13).
Tomorrow: What player who wore #56 was one of only four linebackers in Dolphins history to be voted as the team’s Most Valuable Player? (Kudos to anyone who gets this right, since the obvious answer may not be the correct one.)
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