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This week, Dolfans everywhere will be looking forward to February 5th, the day Dan Marino is certain to be selected for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
But there is another Dolphin who has made the final list of 15, the fourth time he has been so honored; a man who has waited, patiently, for a deserved moment to be recognized as one of the game's greatest.
For those of you who remember the glory years, you know that the career of offensive lineman Bob Kuechenberg shines as one of the best in team history.
From 1970 until Marino's record-breaking season in 1984, Kuechenberg's career spanned a period of dominance that included all five of the team's Super Bowl appearances (VI, VII, VIII, XVII, and XIX) and two World Championships (1972 and 1973). During his 15-year Dolphin career, his teams won an impressive twelve AFC East divisional championships.
Interestingly, Kuechenberg's career didn't start out in stellar fashion.
A 1969 fourth round draft pick by the Philadelphia Eagles, he was cut by the Eagles and then by the Falcons. Out of the NFL, he was resigned to playing seven games of semi-pro ball for the Chicago Owls.
Sometimes, he was paid. Sometimes, he wasn't.
Then, in 1970, "Kooch" was given the break of his life when the Dolphins inked him to a free agent contract.
Under the tutelage of John Sandusky, Kooch blossomed into one of the best offensive linemen in NFL history.
He brought great versatility to the Dolphins, playing Center, Guard, and Tackle at various points of his career.
His most impressive season in this regard came in 1978. After starting the first half of the season at Guard, Kuechenberg was pressed into duty at Left Tackle for seven games. He so impressed his peers with his tackle play that he was rewarded with a Pro Bowl berth at that position. That same year, The Sporting News decided that they had seen enough of him at Guard to recognize him as such on their all-AFC team.
In 1983, Kuechenberg even took on long-snapping chores.
Kooch also brought toughness and durability to the Dolphins, often playing through injuries that lesser men would yield to.
He set a team record for the most regular season appearances by a player in team history (196, a record since surpassed by Marino's 242). On his way to setting that record, Kuechenberg racked up three impressive starting streaks of 53, 42, and 49 games.
Kooch took pride in being someone that his teammates could count on, especially in big games.
In 1973, during the second to last regular season game against the Colts, Kooch broke his forearm. Missing only the final game of the season, the left guard returned to play in all of the Dolphins' playoff games, including Super Bowl VIII.
His work against Minnesota's Alan Page, the best defensive tackle in football at that time, still stands as one of the greatest performances by an offensive lineman in Super Bowl history. Kooch thoroughly dominated the future Hall of Famer as the Dolphins racked up 196 yards on the ground against the vaunted Purple People Eaters while yielding only one sack.
In later years, Don Shula would reveal that neutralizing Page was at the heart of the team's offensive game plan that day.
To this day, no one has played in more Dolphin playoff games (19) than Kooch.
At 6-2, 253lbs., Kuechenberg was not the biggest of men but consistently won his battles with excellent technique, functional strength, mental preparation, and toughness. A terrific athlete, Kuechenberg could neutralize a bull rushing defensive tackle just as capably as he could pick up a speed rushing defensive end.
Kuechenberg is one of the most honored offensive lineman in NFL history, garnering six Pro Bowl Berths (1974, 1975, 1977, 1978, 1982, 1983) and first or second-team All-Pro honors in 1975, 1977, and 1978. He was a three time all-AFC selection (1974, 1975, 1978) by Pro Football Weekly and/or The Sporting News.
Playing in the shadow of Hall of Famers Larry Little and Jim Langer, it is easy to understand how Kuechenberg could be overlooked for so long. During the prime of his career in the 1970s, Kooch won just two outstanding Dolphin offensive lineman awards (1978, 1979) as Langer and Little garnered the others.
A member of the Dolphins Silver Anniversary Team, Kooch was inducted into the Dolphin Honor Roll in 1995.
I had the privilege of meeting Bob Kuechenberg three times in the late 70s and early 80s. A classy man, he was always gracious with the fans, especially kids who would marvel at how "big" he was.
Literally and figuratively, he was the type of man that a kid could look up to; the embodiment of how the game should be played - and represented.
Today's NFL sure could use a lot more Bob Kuechenbergs. Now is the time for Hall of Fame voters to add just the one.
CORRECTION: In my column last week, "Position Analysis: Defensive Line", I wrote that Bryan Robinson had "his best season ever in terms of tackles made". This is incorrect. As a Bear, Robinson posted three seasons with higher tackle totals. I regret the error.