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99 Days Of 99 Jersey Numbers: #97

Posted Jun 2, 2014

It's surprising that no Dolphin wore #97 until 1987, when one of the most unfairly maligned players in team history became the first person to don it.

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.

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It's surprising that no Dolphin wore #97 until 1987, when one of the most unfairly maligned players in team history became the first person to don it - defensive end John Bosa. By the time his career ended, Bosa was viewed to be a disappointment by most Dolphins fans. But that evaluation isn’t exactly accurate. Bosa was a first round pick by the Dolphins in 1987, and joined the team amidst great expectations. And he played reasonably well his first year in Miami, starting 12 games in '87 and becoming an all-rookie selection that year. But he suffered a debilitating injury to his left knee in 1988 that severely hampered his effectiveness, followed by another serious knee injury -this time to his right one - in a preseason game in 1990 that ended his career. So it was his injuries that limited Bosa to just three seasons in the NFL, not his ability.

The player who wore #97 the most was defensive end Phillip Merling, who was with the Dolphins for four seasons (2008-11). And in a little-known fact, current Dolphins long snapper John Denny, the longest tenured player on the roster, began his career in Miami by wearing #97 his first two seasons with the team (2005-2006) before switching in 2007 to the number he currently wears -#92.

The complete list of players who wore #97 includes: Bosa (1987-89); Jeff Hunter (1992-93); Tyoka Jackson (1994); Aaron Jones (1996); Ernest Grant (2000-01); Denney (2005-06); Merling (2008-11); Kheeston Randall (2012) and Isaako Aaitui (2013).

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Tomorrow: What Miami player who wore #96 is far better known as a national broadcaster than as a former member of the Dolphins?

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PREVIOUS JERSEY NUMBERS: 99 | 98 |
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