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 number was worn by some talented linebackers, including a few who joined the Dolphins with unorthodox backgrounds. The lineage starts with the underrated Doug Swift (1970-75), a key member of the Dolphins’ two Super Bowl championship teams who joined the team in 1970 as an unheralded free agent out of Amherst, a Division III school better known for its academics than athletics. But he worked his way into the starting lineup as a rookie, and started every game in Miami’s three-year Super Bowl run from 1971-73 which resulted in two NFL Championships, including the Perfect Season of 1972. In Super Bowl VII that season, his blitz of Washington Redskins quarterback Billy Kilmer forced Kilmer to make a hurried throw, which was intercepted by Nick Buoniconti to set up the Dolphins’ second touchdown that game. After dealing with injuries later in his career, Swift was left unprotected in the 1976 expansion draft, and rather than reporting to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after they drafted him, he retired in favor of medical school and went on to become anesthesiologist in Philadelphia. Another underrated linebacker, Bob Brudzinski (1981-89) also wore the jersey, and like Swift was part of a suffocating defense but was overshadowed by his teammates on it. After three solid years with the Los Angeles Rams, “Bru” joined the Dolphins in 1981 following a salary dispute with the Rams. As a member of the famed “Killer B’s” defense of the 1980s he played well, starting all but three games in his first six seasons in Miami, but teammates like Doug Betters, Bob Baumhower, Kim Bokamper, and A.J. Duhe seemed to get more of the accolades. Although Brudzinski was named to the Dolphins’ Silver Anniversary team, he never made a Pro Bowl squad. In fact, during his playing days he was one of the answers to the question “Who is the best linebacker in the league never to have made the Pro Bowl?” and along with Troy Vincent, Manny Fernandez, Mercury Morris and one or two others, remains among the best players in Dolphins history never to make that team. The jersey was also worn by some pretty good linebackers after Bru, including John Grimsley (1991-93), whose tenure in Miami was marred by injuries, and Derrick Rodgers (1997-02), a five-year starter with the team who was an NFL rookie at age 26; he played the trumpet, not football in high school and after that spent 4.5 years in the Air Force before going to college, where he played organized football for the first time. The number is currently being worn by Dannell Ellerbe
, who finished third on the Dolphins in tackles last year from his linebacker position.
The complete list of Dolphins who have worn #59 includes Jack Thornton (1966); Swift (1970-75); Guy Roberts (1977); Steve Shull (1980); Brudzinski (1981-89); Grimsley (1991-93); Dewayne Dotson (1995); Rodgers (1997-02); Billy Strother (2004); Donnie Spragan (2005-07); Derek Smith (2008); J.D. Folsom (2009); Ikaika Alama-Francis (2010-11); Jonathan Freeny
(2012); and Ellerbe (2013).