Former members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins I might add, were gathered at the Baltimore-Miami game Sunday. Don Shula was part of the group. They were cheering on Cincinnati via the scoreboard as the Bengals were trying to end the Kansas City Chiefs’ undefeated status for 2003. It worked; the Chiefs lost. Unlike Jim Rome’s opinion on same, I find the ’72 Dolphins a breath of fresh air. They want their undefeated record to stand, and they make it clear whenever that record is in jeopardy. That, sports fans, is honesty and not hypocrisy, and I respect it. Had I been part of that ’72 team, I’d feel the same way, and I wouldn’t mind admitting it either.
Story of the Week
(Stephen Murphy, this one’s for you and your friend, Ronnie Lott.)
I’ve never made a secret of my lifetime admiration for #42, Jackie Robinson. Ronnie Lott was worthy of wearing Jackie Robinson’s number.
Lott’s impact on professional football was as subtle as a sledgehammer. The big hits he delivered were more than an expression of his talent; they were a reason for his existence. Lott approached receivers and running backs with the mental discipline of a martial arts master. In running into and through ball carriers, he summoned energy from every part of his body.
Installed at cornerback and later moved to safety, Lott was the driving force behind the 49ers’ defense during those championship seasons. He also played for the Los Angeles Raiders and the New York Jets at the end of his pro career, treating each play as if the game was on the line. He was quoted as saying "There can be 60 or 70 plays, and I know for a fact that in every game I play in the NFL, I make the difference with one play I make or one play I don’t make."
Lott apparently made a very positive difference. During his 14 years in the NFL, he played in six NFC championship games, went to four Super Bowls, and was named to 10 Pro Bowls. He had 63 picks, 730 yards, and five touchdowns during his great pro career. And not to be overlooked are the 1000-plus tackles Lott registered throughout that illustrious career. Included in that stat were five seasons of at least 100 tackles per season.
The enduring image of the 6-1, 203-pound defensive back was a head-on collision. Nobody ever tried to hit a guy harder than he did. Cowboys’ coach Tom Landry once summed it up best when he stated that Ronnie Lott was like a middle linebacker playing the safety position.
But equally important to the 49ers was his leadership. On the field, he was constantly screaming at his teammates to play better and do more. Off the field, he was just as vocal, a leader in the clubhouse, and a man willing to help younger players who were struggling.
As a rookie out of U.S.C. in 1981, Lott was a defensive star from the moment he joined San Francisco. In that first season, he started all 16 games, earned All-Pro honors and played in his first Pro Bowl. His fierce dedication to the game was evident from the beginning, but never more apparent than in 1985 when doctors recommended surgery to repair Lott’s mangled left pinky finger, saying that he might miss a few games. He had them amputate the finger tip instead so he wouldn’t miss a down. Noted Randy Cross, Lott’s former 49ers’ teammate, "He doesn’t care about his own body, so why should he care about someone else’s?!"
Following the 1994 campaign, the future Hall-of-Famer re-signed with San Francisco where he announced his retirement from the NFL. Ronnie Lott earned the respect of those who played with him and against him, as well as all NFL fans, myself included.
Last Week’s Trivia
What NHL goaltender is the all-time shutout leader? Terry Sawchuk finished his great career with 103 shutouts from 1949-1970. It’s a record that probably will stand forever.
Trivia Question of the Week
What former major league baseballer was nicknamed "Kid" for his youthful exuberance and enthusiasm throughout his fine playing career. See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.