We move on to day five in our countdown of the top numbers in Miami Dolphins history. Today, we take a look at the sixth ranked number in team history.
Our sixth best number for the Dolphins' franchise is the first Hall of Fame number in our countdown. It's the 66.
Unlike our last few numbers, no one wore the 66 when the Dolphins began play in 1966. However, it did not take long for (a) someone to claim it and (b) someone to hold it for a long time. In 1967, an undrafted free agent joined the San Diego Chargers, where he played 24 games in two year, starting four, as a guard. Before the 1969, that guard was traded to the Dolphins.
Of course, that guard was Larry Little. He stepped in as the starting right guard for the Dolphins, and held that position for 12 years. During that time, Little played 159 games, starting 153 of them. Little played in every game in eight of those 12 seasons, missing two games in 1969, one in 1973, one in 1979, and most of the 1980 season (playing in 5 games).
Little was selected to the AFL All Star Game in 1969, then to five of the next six Pro Bowls (missing the 1970 season's game). He would also be a First Team All Pro selection every season from 1971 to 1975, and was selected by the Players Association as the AFC Offensive Lineman of the Year three times. He retired after the 1980 season, following several injuries that reduce his playing time, ending a career that saw him start three Super Bowls.
In 1986, 1987, and 1990, Little was a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, before being inducted in 1993. He was also inducted into the Dolphins' Ring of Honor that year.
After Little laid down the gauntlet with his performance in the 66, it was not until 1986 that someone again wore the number, with Larry Lee picking it up for one season, playing the same right guard position as Little. He appeared in all 16 games that season, starting five, but went to the Denver Broncos the next year.
Jim Gilmore took a shot at wearing the 66 in 1987, but only appeared in three games, with two starts.
After that, the jersey lay empty for nearly a decade, until Everett McIver wore it for two seasons in 1996 and 1997, starting 19 games, with three additional appearances, at right guard for the Dolphins.
The century ended with Kevin Gogan playing in all 16 games in the 1999 season, with 10 starts, at right guard.
Heath Irwin then wore the number for the 2000 and 2001 campaigns, with 29 appearances and 7 starts over that span.
After Irwin, Jamie Nails picked it the 66 for two seasons, appearing in 29 games, all starts, as the Miami left guard in 2002 and 2003.
From 2004 to 2007, Rex Hadnot donned the 66. Miami's sixth round pick in the 2004 draft, Hadnot joined the Dolphins as a right guard, starting seven games his rookie year, appearing in 14 contests. The next three years would see Hadnot start every game for Miami, at right guard in 2005 and 2007 and at center in 2006.
Donald Thomas picked up the jersey in 2008, holding it for two seasons. He started one game, his only appearance, as a rookie, then started 12 games at right guard, with 16 appearances, in his sophomore season.
In 2011, the 66 was briefly held by seventh round draft pick, defensive tackle Frank Kearse. Kearse was stashed on the Miami practice squad at the end of the preseason, only to see the Carolina Panthers steal him two weeks into the season.
Currently, undrafted free agent defensive end Tristan Okpalaugo is wearing the 66.
The number 66 is clearly dominated by one person, but when that person wears the number in three different decades, on the way to a Hall of Fame induction, that domination is justified.