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 jersey that should have quit while it was ahead. The very first player to wear it was Bob Kuechenberg (1970-84), one of the best offensive linemen in Dolphin history. Known for his toughness and durability, “Kooch” bridged the gap between the Griese and Marino eras and was the last member of the ’72 Perfect Season team to retire. He played on every Dolphin Super Bowl team but one, missing the 1984 season and Super Bowl XIX with an eye injury, which forced him to retire a year later. He joined the Dolphins in 1970 as a free agent, and went on to play 15 seasons with the team, more than anyone else except Marino himself. He was third behind Marino and Jason Taylor in most games started and played, spending most of his career at left guard but playing at left tackle as well when needed. And his level of play was exceptional – he was named to six Pro Bowl teams and in his entire career had just 15 holding penalties called against him, an average of one a year. But what Dolphin fans remember most about him was his toughness, which he showed the nation in Super Bowl VIII against the Minnesota Vikings. Playing with a cast to protect a metal rod in an arm he broke a few weeks earlier, Kuechenberg was matched up against future Hall of Fame defensive tackle Alan Page. He held the great Page to just one tackle as Larry Csonka rolled up 145 yards rushing in the Dolphins’ 27-10 win. Page was neutralized to such an extent by Kuechenberg that he got frustrated and was ejected late in the game after taking a cheap shot at Bob Griese. While Kuechenberg was an easy choice to induct into the Dolphins Honor Roll, to this day team insiders will tell you that it’s an injustice he isn’t in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, even though he was a finalist for eight straight years, from 2002-2009. Talk about a tough act to follow, and nobody has – the jersey has yet to be worn by another starter ever since Kooch took it off for the last time.
The complete list of Dolphins who have worn #67 includes Kuechenberg (1970-84); Chris Ward (1986); Chris Conlin (1987); *Guy Goar (1987); Pat Swoopes (1991); Jeff Novak (1994); Barry Stokes (1998) and Joe Berger (2009-10).
Tomorrow: What player who wore # 66 was acquired in a trade by the Dolphins in exchange for his high school teammate?
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