Immediately after being introduced by Nat Moore as the newest inductee onto the Dolphin Honor Roll, John Offerdahl looked over to Moore and smiled.
“I’m pumped up,” Offerdahl said. “And when a linebacker gets pumped up, he looks for people to hit.
“What an honor!”
Offerdahl will become the latest member of the Dolphin Honor Roll when he is inducted at halftime of the Oct. 31, Thursday night game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Sun Life Stadium.
Offerdahl will become the 22nd player and the third pure linebacker inducted onto the Dolphin Honor Roll, which also includes team founder Joe Robbie, Hall of Fame Head Coach Don Shula, defensive coordinator Bill Arnsparger and the entire 1972 team.
The honor is the crowning achievement of a remarkable career that began with Offerdahl walking on at Western Michigan University and almost giving up after getting an F in organic chemistry as a junior season.
“I was just overjoyed,” Offerdahl said in describing his reaction to the news he would join the Honor Roll. “You don’t think a lot about something like this. It’s an overused word, but it’s truly an honor. And you get to share it with people. It’s certainly not something I want to own; I want to share it.”
The other two linebackers already on the Dolphin Honor Roll are Nick Buoniconti, inducted in 1991, and Zach Thomas, inducted last year.
Jason Taylor, inducted last year along with Thomas and Arnsparger, played linebacker at times for the Dolphins but spent his career mostly at defensive end.
Like Buoniconti before him and Thomas after, Offerdahl was a dominant presence at middle linebacker after joining the pro ranks without much fanfare.
“When John Offerdahl tackled you, you went down,” Shula said. “Whether it was stopping the run, putting pressure on the quarterback or dropping into coverage, John could do it all. He was a relentless player, a professional who practiced as hard as he played. And he was one of the smartest players out there — he was like a quarterback on our defense. There are two great linebackers enshrined on the Dolphin Honor Roll, Nick Buoniconti and Zach Thomas, and I’m glad to see John join them.”
Offerdahl came to the Dolphins as a second-round pick in 1986 with the team’s first pick that year — the first-round choice had been traded to Tampa Bay in a deal for linebacker Hugh Green.
Offerdahl wasted no time making an impact with the Dolphins. He led the Dolphins in 1986 with 135 tackles, the highest total on the team between 1981 and 1994. In addition to being named co-Defensive Rookie of the Year by Pro Football Weekly, Offerdahl was selected to the Pro Bowl and earned second-team AP All-Pro recognition.
“You saw right away he was going to be a solid and dominant middle linebacker,” said Moore, who played with Offerdahl in 1986, the last season of a 13-year career that also landed him on the Dolphin Honor Roll. “He was a hard-nosed, tough, smart guy who made all the right plays.”
The 1986 season turned out to be a preview of things to come for Offerdahl.
He would go on to earn Pro Bowl invitations in each of his first five seasons, and he added a first-team AP All-Pro selection in 1990. Offerdahl was selected by the South Florida media as the team’s Most Outstanding Linebacker four times and he led the team in tackles three times.
When Dolphins fans selected the team’s Silver Anniversary Team in 1990, Offerdahl was one of four linebackers chosen along with Buoniconti, Larry Gordon and Bob Brudzinski.
Off the field, Offerdahl twice was voted by teammates as the winner of the Nat Moore Award for Community Service and Civic Participation.
After his career ended in 1993, Offerdahl remained part of the South Florida community and achieved tremendous success again in the restaurant business, first with his chain of bagel shops and now with his seven Offerdahl’s Grill Café shops.
“No one epitomizes what it means to be a Dolphin more than John Offerdahl,” said Dolphins Chairman of the Board/Managing General Partner Stephen Ross. “He wasn’t the biggest or the fastest player on the field, but he was the best. He was tenacious, tough, intelligent, and a leader. Those same traits made him a success in the business and community service arenas as well, and he continues to be a very visible and admired representative of the team in the South Florida community. I want to welcome him as the newest member of the Dolphins’ Honor Roll.”
MEMBERS OF DOLPHIN HONOR ROLL
(Date inducted in parentheses)
Founder Joe Robbie, 1966-89 (Sept. 16, 1990)
FB Larry Csonka, 1968-74, 1979 (Nov. 19, 1990)
QB Bob Griese, 1967-80 (Nov. 19, 1990)
C Jim Langer, 1970-79 (Nov. 19, 1990)
WR Paul Warfield, 1970-74 (Nov. 19, 1990)
LB Nick Buoniconti, 1969-76 (Nov. 18, 1991)
1972 Undefeated Team (Nov. 16, 1992)
G Larry Little, 1969-80 (Dec. 13, 1993)
C Dwight Stephenson, 1980-87 (Dec. 12, 1994)
G Bob Kuechenberg, 1970-84 (Dec. 11, 1995)
Head Coach Don Shula, 1970-95 (Nov. 25, 1996)
WR Nat Moore, 1974-86 (Dec. 5, 1999)
QB Dan Marino, 1983-99 (Sept. 17, 2000)
WR Mark Clayton, 1983-92 (Dec. 15, 2003)
WR Mark Duper, 1982-92 (Dec. 15, 2003)
S Dick Anderson, 1968-77 (Dec. 3, 2006)
T Richmond Webb, 1990-2000 (Dec. 25, 2006)
NT Bob Baumhower, 1977-86 (Dec. 14, 2008)
DE Doug Betters, 1978-87 (Dec. 14, 2008)
S Jake Scott, 1970-75 (Nov. 18, 2010)
DE Bill Stanfill, 1969-76 (Nov. 18, 2010)
TE (Broadcaster) Jim Mandich, 1970-77, 1992-04, 2007-10 (Dec. 4, 2011)
DE/LB Jason Taylor, 1997-07, 2009, 2011 (October 14, 2012)
LB Zach Thomas, 1996-2007 (October 14, 2012)
Assistant Coach Bill Arnsparger, 1970-73, 1976-83 (December 16, 2012)
LB John Offerdahl, 1986-93