We move on to day nine in our countdown of the top numbers in Miami Dolphins history. Today, we take a look at the second ranked number in team history.
Our second best number for the Dolphins' franchise is is the second of three numbers retired by Miami. It's also a Hall of Fame number for the Dolphins. Our third ranked number is the 39.
Like our previous number, Bob Griese's 12, only one person ever wore 39 for the Dolphins - runningback Larry Csonka.
The parallels between Griese and Csonka don not stop there, however. Griese was drafted in the first round, with the fourth overall selection, in the 1967 Draft. A year later, the Dolphins would grab Csonka with their first round pick, number eight overall. While Griese would start 10 games as a rookie, Csonka would start 11. Unlike Griese, however, Csonka would not be named to the AFL All Star Game as a rookie. He would record 540 yards on 138 carries (3.9 yard per carry average), with six touchdowns. He also had 11 receptions for 118 yards, and a score.
Although his rushing touchdowns would drop and his receptions would increase, Csonka's sophomore campaign was very similar to his rookie one, with 11 starts, 131 carries for 566 yards (4.3 yards per carry), and two touchdowns, with 21 receptions for 183 yards and a score.
It was in his third season that Csonka hit his groove. That season saw him start all 14 games, carrying the ball 193 times for 874 yards (4.5 ypc), with six touchdowns. He also caught 11 passes for 94 yards. The 1970 season ended with Csonka being named to his first of five straight Pro Bowls.
The 1971 season would see Csonka lead the league with a 5.4 yards per carry average, along with his first 1,000 yard season, carrying the ball 195 times for 1,051 yards and seven touchdowns. Along with the Pro Bowl, Csonka was also a First Team All Pro selection.
During the Undefeated Season in 1972, Csonka would carry the ball 213 times for 1,117 yards (his career high) with six touchdowns.
The following two seasons would feature 14 total touchdowns, and Csonka's final 1,000 yard season (1,003 in 1973). He was again a First Team All Pro selection in 1973, making the Pro Bowl both seasons. He was also selected as the Super Bowl VIII MVP following the '73 season.
Then, the marriage between the Dolphins and Csonka, along with receiver Paul Warfield and running back Jim Kiick, dissolved when the three stars, and the center of what could have been a Dolphins' dynasty in the 1970s, bolted for the World Football League.
After the WFL folded before the 1976 season, Csonka returned to the NFL, signing with the New York Giants, coached by former Dolphins defensive coordinator Bill Arnsparger. Through three seasons in New York, Csonka struggled with injuries, never recapturing his Pro Bowl form.
After the 1978 season, Csonka's contract expired, allowing him to return home for one final season. Back with the Dolphins in 1979, Csonka would start all 16 games, carrying the ball for a career high 220 times, gaining 837 yards and scoring a career high 12 touchdowns. He also was named the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year.
Csonka retired after that season. He was named a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986, before being inducted the following year. In November 1990, Csonka was inducted into the Dolphins' Ring of Honor in the first group of players to be so honored. In 2002, the Dolphins made Csonka's 39 the third number retired by the franchise.
And, just for the record, Csonka is the only NFL running back to get called for unnecessary roughness on a tackler (don't believe me? Check out the video).