Two-time Super Bowl champion. Two-time Pro Bowl selection. Two-time First-Team All-Pro selection. Accolades surround former Miami Dolphins kicker Garo Yepremian. It was his off-the-field attitude and love-for-life that made Yepremian, who moved from his native Cyrpus to the United States when he was 22, into a fan favorite.
His first NFL game was his first football game. He started his career with the Detroit Lions, and was the last player in the NFL to not wear a face mask - which lasted four weeks until a brutal hit made him re-think his helmet choice decision, adding a one-bar facemask. He celebrated an extra point in a loss by running off the field with his arms raised, telling teammates, "I kick a touchdown."
After two seasons with the Lions, Yepremian left football to join the US Army. When he returned, the Lions did not bring him back to the team, so he signed with the Miami Dolphins in 1970 (after a year in the Continental Football League). He went on to reach all those on-field accolades with Miami, but would be best known for his failed attempt at throwing a pass on a blocked field goal near the end of Super Bowl VII.
But, Yepremian continued to keep his head up and make people laugh. He passed away on Friday after a year-long fight with brain cancer.
The Dolphins released a statement earlier today about Yepremian. This afternoon, Yepremian's former coach, Hall of Famer Don Shula, and his former quarterback, Hall of Famer Bob Griese, both released statements about Yepremian.
Garo went from "I kicked a touchdown" to making some of the most pressure kicks in Dolphins history. He didn't know much about football when he started his career but certainly helped win a lot of games for us during his time in Miami.
When you think back about Garo there were a lot of great moments and some that were not so great. No matter what, though, he had a positive attitude all the time. He always wanted to be involved in everything and I enjoyed having him on the team. He was unique in Dolphins history and will be missed.
Garo was only 5'8" but stood a lot taller than that and played a big role in Dolphins history. Mentally he was sharp and I think his success as a kicker was based on his intelligence and his understanding of the challenges involved with kicking a ball through the uprights.
There were some great additions to the Dolphins when Coach Shula took over in 1970 - Paul Warfield, Jake Scott, Tim Foley and others - and Garo was another key acquisition that year. He made some big kicks during the run to our championships in the 1970s.
He was from Cyprus and didn't understand the game when he joined us but he was a fast learner who became one of the best kickers in the league.
Being as small as he was, I didn't know how he kicked a ball so far and so straight, but he did and made most of his field goals. He was a huge part of the success of those great teams.