In his 40th season covering the Miami Dolphins, Andy Cohen celebrates the 100th anniversary of the NFL by looking back at some of most memorable moments, players and performances in Dolphins’ history.
This is alumni weekend for the Miami Dolphins and that means a large gathering of former players, coaches and team personnel do an assortment of fun things together, probably nothing more enjoyable than reliving the past, sometimes with a heavy dose of good natured ribbing, other times with stories not suited for public consumption.
I’ve got stories too. Some of the stories deal with players attending this weekend. Others are about players who couldn’t make it. But with the alumni in town, and the Dolphins honoring so many important pieces of the past, what better time to share five of my stories.
Linebacker John Offerdahl was so small town when he first arrived in South Florida, a second-round pick out of Western Michigan. He had grown up Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., a town of about 20,000 people and truthfully just hadn’t had much experience with big city life.
So I’ll never forget a trip to New Orleans his rookie season back in 1986. The team was staying at the Superdome Hyatt and at that time it was about as state of the art as you could find in luxury hotels. What it had that Offerdahl hadn’t seen before was an all glass elevator with a remarkable panoramic view of inside of the hotel.
I promise you, I must have counted Offerdahl going up and down that elevator at least four or five times. He had never seen anything like that before and looked like a kid in an amusement park going up and down, his face often pressed against the glass.
“My mom wouldn’t believe this,” I remember Offerdahl saying. “How did they build that thing?”
A successful businessman today, and a lot more in tune with the world, Offerdahl probably doesn’t tell that story very much these days. I can understand why.
The Marks Brothers, of course, will be here this weekend because Mark Clayton and Mark Duper are as much a part of the fabric of this franchise as any two players linked together. Wouldn’t be a good party without them. People ask me all the time about my favorite all-time Dolphins and while it’s impossible to narrow it down to just a few, I can tell you that Duper and Clayton are prominent members of that list.
They were so much fun to cover because, in part, they loved ragging on one another.
“Ask (Duper) if he can jump over a Ping Pong table,” Clayton said to me one day early in his career. “He thinks he’s so great, all he can do is run.”
Duper, terribly shy as a rookie but far more talkative and confident in later years, dared Clayton to try it. There wasn’t a Ping Pong table nearby. But there was a car. Not a particularly big car, but still a car. And Clayton jumped over it. Did it width wise, which wasn’t exactly a Ping Pong table, but it did leave Duper with his mouth wide open.
Even now as the years have taken away the raw athletic ability of Clayton and the remarkable speed of Duper, they still bust each other’s chops on a regular basis. I’m not sure this franchise will ever see a more dynamic pair at receiver.
Bob Baumhower was an outstanding nose tackle from 1977 through 1986. Made four Pro Bowls. Deserved every one. He also liked to get under the skin of the writers covering the team. Unfortunately, I realized this only after I approached him one day at his locker at Biscayne College, with a few innocuous questions.
Before I could even ask a question, he took one look at me, his eyes growing cold, his teeth clenched tight, and he pounded his fist against his locker in what seemed like genuine rage. You’ve got to remember this was a powerful 6-foot-5, 265-pound man.
“I’M NEVER GOING TO TALK TO YOU AGAIN,” he says, his voice almost shaking. “GET OUT OF MY SIGHT OR I’LL KICK YOUR (BLEEP).”
And then, just as I was about to quickly walk away, Baumhower leaned back and smiled.
“Just kidding,” he said. “What can I do to help you?”
Will never forgive him for that one.
I see Ed Newman on the list of players attending the weekend. He’s Judge Ed Newman today but when I covered him, he was the strongest player on the team, a first-rate offensive lineman who could also expound on a question longer and in more detail than any player I have ever covered.
Should have realized back then he was destined to have a gavel in his hands.
When you interviewed Ed Newman back then you needed either a notepad with plenty of paper or a tape recorder with plenty of battery life. To say Eddie could expound on answers isn’t doing it do justice. He must have gotten a PHD at Duke in Elaborating.
I remember one day I asked him a simple question: What does the offensive line need to focus on this week? Eddie started talking about challenges and life and the ability to overcome major obstacles and I’m not sure he ever answered the question, but I know I didn’t have time to talk to any other players that day. You want brevity? Don’t stop by Ed Newman’s locker.
Don’t get me wrong. He was highly intelligent. He was also a very talented. And truthfully he was one of my favorite players during those years. But I learned early on that there is no quick interview with Ed Newman. And I would imagine some of his rulings in court are not the one sentence type.
My last story is about Dwight Stephenson. It was the summer of 1980 and I was assigned to do a training camp diary with the rookie second-round pick out of Alabama. Every day I would meet with him in his dorm room, and discuss his day, his impressions of camp and his general overall outlook on the start of his pro football journey.
And every day I heard the same thing from Stephenson: “I’m not going to make this team. I just don’t have a good feeling about it. I’m not sure I’m doing enough.”
His roommate, fellow Alabama teammate Don McNeal, would lean back in his bed and chuckle. “C’mon, Dwight,” McNeal would say. “You’ve got nothing to worry about.”
“Easy for you to say,” Stephenson would respond. “You were the No. 1 pick.”
Well, as it turns out, Stephenson did make the team and went on to have a pretty good career, uh, if you consider making the Hall of Fame a pretty good career. Some even suggest that for those eight seasons in the league, he was the best center in the game.
And, yes, he didn’t think he was going to make the team back in 1980. I still joke about it with him today and he still swears he was legitimately worried. Who knows, maybe that innate fear helped make him the player he was.