For more than a decade, Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas ran out of the tunnel in the west end zone at Sun Life Stadium onto the field. Now their names will be forever displayed above that tunnel.
The brothers-in-law and stalwarts of many Dolphins defenses soaked in the moment at halftime today when they were officially inducted into the Dolphins Honor Roll. The banners covering their names were dropped to a huge round of applause as Taylor and Thomas took their place next to the late Jim Mandich.
“Real quickly I want to say thank you to each and every one of my teammates that are here to tonight,” said Taylor, who was first with the microphone. “To the greatest fans in the NFL, there was no better joy than coming out of that tunnel right there for every home game knowing that you guys had our backs willing to endure the heat and stay in here and watch us play until the end. Thank you very much and I love you. Last but not least, I want to thank my family, my mother, my sister, my beautiful wife Katina, my two heroes my sons Isaiah and Mason and my daughter, Zoe. I love you guys and am thankful you were along for the journey and I’d lake to thank Mr. Ross, and Mike Dee I thank you very much for this honor.”
Thomas is known as the more emotional of the two, which is why he wore sunglasses to hide the tears at the start of his speech. But as the cheers and the atmosphere got to him, Thomas raised his voice and became as passionate as he used to get in the locker room before games or at the half.
“Miami Dolphins fans, thank you for being the greatest fans in the NFL,” Thomas said. “In good times and bad you always had our backs. It touched my heart every time I looked in the stands and saw my jersey. I want to thank the Miami Dolphins organization and my teammates. I couldn’t have done it without you. I want to thank Jimmy Johnson for the opportunity and I want to thank my family, starting with my brother, who is my hero in life, my sister who is my biggest cheerleader and my wife who is my best friend and a great mother to my kids. I want to thank my mom and dad for al of their support and encouragement And the last thing, the only reason we live in this great country is because of the service and sacrifice of our troops, so God bless our troops, long live the Miami Dolphins and let’s go win the second half!”
Thomas points to his very first NFL regular-season game at this stadium in 1996 against the New England Patriots as his greatest moment before today because that’s when he knew he had made it and beat the odds. Meanwhile, Taylor reflected on his final game last January, a 19-17 win over the New York Jets, when he was carried off the field at the end by his defensive teammates as his top memory.
Moments after the ceremony, the two made it upstairs to the back of the Edwin Pope Press Box to briefly address the media and share their feeling about the day.
“It’s kind of a blur but I’ll tell you what, now when I look back it it’s surreal,” Thomas said. “It’s just awesome to see both of our teams together in that end zone with all of those other great names. It’s been a long time in the making, a lot of sacrifice, a lot of hard work but it was a great ride. … I don’t think you ever lose the emotion and I was ready to strap it up and go back out there on the field. It’s so true when people talk about when the cheering stops it does affect a lot of guys, but it’s still such an adrenaline rush and felt like old times.”
For Taylor, he emphasized that honors like these are earned and not promised, but he couldn’t think of a better way to go into the Honor Roll than with his brother-in-law and best friend. Well, he could think of one thing better, and that was to have won a Super Bowl.
“Absolutely nothing can replace winning a championship,” Taylor said. “In the ultimate team sport in this world, having a chance to win a championship would have been fantastic. We did not get that done and I think I can speak for Zach and myself by saying one of our only regrets if there is a regret is that we did not get that done. Still, this is an amazing honor and would I trade it for a ring? This probably isn’t the day to say it but yeah. Again, if we had won a Super Bowl we probably would have been up there anyway.”
One thing is for sure and that’s these two will be forever linked in history for what they accomplished both on and off the field and have cemented their place in Dolphins lore among the all-time greats.