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.
You would have to be a really good student of Dolphins history to remember many of the players who wore this number in club annals. It got off to a good start, when defensive end Jim Riley (1967-71) first wore the jersey. In 1968, he pretty much split the starting job at left end with rookie Manny Fernandez, with Riley starting eight games and Fernandez starting five times. The following season, in 1969, Fernandez was moved to defensive tackle, and starting with that campaign Riley wound up starting all but one game at end over a three-year span, including 1971 when the Dolphins made their first appearance in the Super Bowl. Not only did Riley start 13 of the 14 regular season games that season, as well as Super Bowl VI, he also finished second on the team with 7.5 sacks. Unfortunately, he suffered a knee injury during a training camp practice in 1972 that not only ended his season, but also his career. It was an unfortunate blow to a player who was well on his way to becoming one of the more recognizable defenders in Dolphin history, but now who is largely (and unfortunately) unknown by many Dolphin fans. With limited exceptions, the number was then worn mainly by reserve players the rest of the way, with a few exceptions. The most notable was Brian Sochia (1986-91), who started at nose tackle for three seasons during his six years in Miami and made the NFL Pro Bowl team in 1988. In fact, with that appearance, he was the only Dolphin defensive player other than John Offerdahl who was picked to make the trip to Hawaii over a five-year span (1985-89). Fifteen years later, the jersey was again worn by a starter, offensive guard/tackle L.J. Shelton (2006-07), whose father, Lonnie Shelton, was an NBA All-Star power forward. The following four seasons the number was worn by starting defensive end Kendall Langford (2008-11), who was one of the better run stuffers at that position in the league.
The complete list of Dolphins who have worn #70 includes Jim Riley (1967-71); Larry Woods (1973); Tom Funchess (1974); Bill Windauer (1975); John Andrews (1975-76); Bob Simpson (1978); Bill Barnett (1980-85); Brian Sochia (1986-91); Eric Moore (1995); Mike Chalenski (1997); Harry Swayne (2001); John St. Clair (2004); L.J. Shelton (2006-07); Kendall Langford (2008-11) and Dallas Thomas
Tomorrow: Can you name the only starter ever to wear # 69? (Hint: He was a second round draft choice by the Dolphins who played alongside the team’s first round pick that year for the next eight seasons, giving the Dolphins one of the best 1-2 draft choices in the club’s history.)
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