Whether you have followed the Miami Dolphins from the day they were formed in 1965, opening day in 1966, the Undefeated Season in 1972, Dan Marino being drafted in 1983, the Jimmy Johnson hire in 1996, or the Chad Pennington signing in 2008, all of us are fans of third highest winning percentage team in the league. Yet, all of us have a different, favorite moment as a Dolphins fan.
I will give you two, because I really can't decide.
My first one has to be the September 23, 2001 game in Pro Player Stadium. A big part of why it’s my favorite memory was because I was at the game, sitting in the first row of the upper deck, waiving an American flag with my family as the NFL returned following the September 11 attacks. Throughout the day, there was so much passion and enjoyment, simply because we were at the event, thumbing our noses at terrorists who were trying to force us to cower in a corner somewhere. Instead, here were thousands of people, both in Miami and throughout the league, who were gathering just to watch a football game and enjoy being around each other.
The atmosphere was amazing, and it could rank up there based simply on that alone. That was a great place to be on that day, then came the final drive of the contest. Miami was down five with 1:41 on the clock and the ball at their own 20 yard line. Jay Fiedler, a man who would come to frustrate most Dolphins fans mostly because he was not Dan Marino, engineered a brilliant drive. Starting with a 20 yard completion to Dedric Ward, Fiedler would follow that with an eight-yard pass to Travis Minor, a 27-yard pass to Chris Chambers, and a six-yard pass to Oronde Gadsden. In 26 seconds, the Dolphins had moved the ball to the Oakland 19 yard line.
A one-yard run from Minor and an incomplete pass on the next two plays, were followed by a timeout from Oakland. The Dolphins faced fourth-and-three with 51 seconds remaining. Fiedler connected with Ward for nine-yards, keeping the drive alive and keeping Pro Player Stadium rocking.
I’ve only heard that stadium that loud one other time. This past season, when Michael Thomas intercepted Tom Brady to seal the win over the New England Patriots, Sun Life Stadium erupted. That’s how loud it was after every Fiedler completion back in 2001. (This moment, with my son at Sun Life Stadium for the first time watching the Dolphins win that game should be in this article too, but I will stick with just the two I am listing.)
First-and-goal from the nine-yard line, Fiedler ran for seven yards, coming up two short of the endzone and giving every fan a heart attack as the clock continued to run. With 16 seconds, Fiedler spiked the ball, leaving the Dolphins two downs to find the endzone. They would only need one.
Fiedler dropped back on third down, then tucked the ball and ran. Diving for the goal line, he somehow willed himself through a sea of black jerseys and landed with his chest – and the ball – in the endzone. The Dolphins won 18-15 after completing the two point conversion, Pro Player Park was deafening, Fiedler was headed to the cover of Sports Illustrated, and a moment that I will always remember.
The other is a simple one. When I went to the Houston Texans season opener in 2012, it was my son’s first NFL game. We sat first row, right behind the Dolphins’ bench. It was great. My son had a sign saying it was his first game. It really was a good time.
The guy sitting next to us was a Texans season ticket holder. At some point during the game, he flagged down a security guard, asking them to take us under the stadium to the team area. Down there, we got to meet a bunch of the players and get autographs and things like that. Getting to watch my son speak with Stephen Ross, Mike Dee, Joe Philbin, Ryan Tannehill, Mike Pouncey, Reggie Bush, Cameron Wake, and a bunch of other players is not something I ever thought would happen. Completely lucked into the situation, and a moment that I am fairly certain locked my son into being a Dolphins fan for life. It may not be the greatest Dolphins moment in terms of on the field play, but seeing my son in that moment, and knowing he still talks about it nearly two years later, will never be taken away from my top Dolphins memories.