Last year it was the nine Hall-of-Famers that were inducted into the inaugural Walk of Fame at Sun Life Stadium, and this year six “Unsung Heroes” are being bestowed the honor before Sunday afternoon’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Quarterbacks Earl Morrall and Don Strock, wide receiver Nat Moore and defensive end/linebacker A.J. Duhe join defensive tackles Tim Bowens and Manny Fernandez. They will see their names unveiled at the Joe Robbie Alumni Plaza at Gate C at 11:30 a.m., and this turned out to be a nice representation of four decades of Dolphins football.
Fernandez played for Hall-of-Fame Head Coach Don Shula from 1968-75 and was part of the 1972 Undefeated Team, as was Morrall (1972-76). Strock (1974-87) and Moore (1974-86) came in the same season and Duhe played eight seasons (1977-84) under Shula. Bowens (1994-2004) only played two seasons for Shula before helping set the tone for the Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas era and seeing those two go up in the Dolphins Honor Roll earlier this year while they gave him a ton of credit really opened his eyes.
“I didn’t know they felt that way about me,” said Bowens, who recorded 407 tackles (297 solo), 22 sacks and one interception in his 11 seasons. “I knew they respected me as a player but to see those guys go up and you’ve got other guys that are going to go up as my teammates it just feels great.”
Morrall was the only inductee who was unable to make it to this afternoon’s press conference but Moore made sure to highlight just how important he was to that 1972 team and to the organization as a whole. Morrall went 9-0 as a starter after Hall-of-Famer Bob Griese went down with a broken leg in the fifth game and he also served as a mentor to Griese early on.
Strock spent 14 seasons in a Dolphins uniform as a backup to Griese, David Woodley and Hall-of-Famer Dan Marino. His most memorable performance came in the 1981 playoff game against the San Diego Chargers when he brought Miami back from a 24-0 deficit to force overtime before eventually falling, 41-38.
“I was thinking about the guys that are going in and they were all team players,” Strock said. “When I say team, you knew what your role was and what you needed to do. I know big Tim for years sacrificed his body in the middle taking on a guard and a center so the backers could make the play. (Duhe) was all over the football field, (Fernandez) was undersized and whipped everybody’s ass and (Moore) was pretty good and he knew his role. He played X,Y, Z and in the 1985 Bears game he played tight end and that was the key to the whole game. Those teams went to the playoffs because of team players and players make plays but teammates are a team and that’s how you win.”
One of the light-hearted moments of the press conference came when Fernandez was asked his reaction to the fact that he and Bowens and played the same position, yet were about as far apart in size as two men could be. Bowens was 6-foot-4 and 325 pounds when he played and Fernandez was 6-2, 250.
Of course, this induction coincides with the celebration of the 40th Anniversary of The Perfect Season and the induction of former Dolphins defensive coordinator Bill Arnsparger into the Dolphins Honor Roll. That will take place at halftime and will be the culmination of Alumni Weekend.
“The whole weekend is special even prior to this honor,” said Fernandez, who racked up 17 tackles in Miami’s 14-7 victory over the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII to cap off the unbeaten season. “This just made it even more special. It’s always great to get back with these goals and we’ve stayed close, in part because of these reunions. Five years flows pretty fast when you get to be 50, 55 or 60 and it’s almost like we’re seeing each other every other year.”
Fans will be invited to attend the ceremony and unveiling.
HENNE DOWNPLAYS RETURN TO SOUTH FLORIDA
Jacksonville Jaguars starting quarterback Chad Henne fully expected the line of questioning he faced on this morning’s conference call with the South Florida media, and the second-round draft pick of the Dolphins back in 2008 didn’t shy away when answering.
After spending his first four seasons in Miami and starting 31 games, Henne tested the free agent market in the offseason and wound up staying in the Sunshine State. He was tabbed as the backup to Blaine Gabbert until Gabbert suffered a season-ending injury and he has started the last three games for Jacksonville, going 1-2. This will be his first appearance at Sun Life Stadium since September 18th, 2011, when he started for the Dolphins in a 23-13 loss to the Houston Texans.
“I don’t know about motivation but obviously I think once it comes towards game day it’ll be a little bit more excitement and everything,” said Henne, who has completed 94-of-182 passes for 1,217 yards, right touchdowns and five interceptions for Jacksonville. “But other than that I’m going to prepare like every other week and go into it like it’s a regular game.”
Henne harbors no ill will towards the Dolphins and seems content with where he’s at with his current team. When asked to reflect on his time in Miami, the Michigan grad kept it in perspective.
“I mean obviously you want to win more games but whether I would’ve, should’ve really wouldn’t change anything,” Henne said. “There’s a big learning experience that I had there. I enjoyed my teammates, I enjoyed being a part of the community down there, so I just took it as an experience to build upon and improve myself as a quarterback and as a young man.”
## Newly acquired wide receiver