Number 81 and the Three Dolphins Who Wore It Best

Current tight end Durham Smythe is among the top players with this number, but does he make the top three?
Tight end Durham Smythe against the Dallas Cowboys during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium last season.
Tight end Durham Smythe against the Dallas Cowboys during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium last season. / Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
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The countdown to the start of the 2024 regular season has begun now that we're under 100 days away, so we'll honor every day the best players to wear the corresponding number for the Dolphins.

Today, we're at number 81.

The top players at each number so far have been Jason Taylor at 99, Jared Odrick at 98Phillip Merling at 97Paul Soliai at 96Tim Bowens at 95Randy Starks at 94,  Trace Armstrong at 93John Denney at 92Cameron Wake at 91Marco Coleman at 90,  Nat Moore at 89, Keith Jackson at 88, Andre Tillman at 87, Oronde Gadsden at 86, Nick Buoniconti at 85, Bill Stanfill at 84, Mark Clayton at 83, and Brian Hartline at 82.

As a reminder about the ground rules, the top three will be determined only by what the players did while wearing that uniform for the Dolphins.

Players who wore 81 for at least one regular season game for the Dolphins:

WR Howard Twilley (1966-76), WR Jimmy Cefalo (1976-84), WR Frank Lockett (1985), WR Scott Schwedes (1987-90), WR Mike Caterbone (1987), WR James Pruitt (1991), WR Randal Hill (1991), WR Robert Clark (1992), WR O.J. McDuffie (1993-2000), TE Randy McMichael (2002-06), TE Joey Haynos (2008-09), TE Dedrick Epps (2010), TE Dante Rosario (2011), TE Durham Smythe (2018-23)

The debate on the best 81 on the Dolphins

There's been a lot more continuity with number 81 than just about any previous number we've examined so far, with five players wearing it for at least five seasons. That list begins with Howard Twilley, who started 82 games over 11 seasons with the Dolphins and scored the first Super Bowl touchdown in franchise history. He was followed by Jimmy Cefalo, who was a full-time starter in the 1982 Super Bowl season and capped it off by scoring a touchdown in the big game also. O.J. McDuffie led the NFL in receptions with a team-record (since broken) 90 catches in 1998, averaged 80 catches over a three-year span and had two punt returns for touchdowns as a rookie first-round pick in 1993. Then there was Randy McMichael, who started every game his four years in Miami, led the team in receptions in 2004 and is the franchise's all-time leader among tight ends for receptions and receiving yards. The most recent player to fit this category is Durham Smythe, who has been a solid two-way tight end for the Dolphins and now is the longest-tenured player on the roster along with kicker Jason Sanders.

The top three Dolphins players with number 81

1. WR O.J. McDuffie

2. TE Randy McMichael

3. WR Howard Twilley

Dolphins 81's among the NFL's all-time best

There are eight Hall of Famers who wore mostly 81 during their NFL career, including Calvin Johnson, Carl Eller and Terrell Owens, and several other all-time greats like Anquan Boldin. The Dolphins don't have a player here who probably would rank in the top 20.

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Alain Poupart


Alain Poupart is the publisher/editor of All Dolphins and co-host of the All Dolphins Podcast. Alain has covered the Miami Dolphins on a full-time basis since 1989 for various publications and media outlets, including Dolphin Digest, The Associated Press, the Dolphins team website, and the Fan Nation Network (part of Sports Illustrated). In addition to being a credentialed member of the Miami Dolphins press corps, Alain has covered three Super Bowls (for, Football News and the Montreal Gazette), the annual NFL draft, the Senior Bowl, and the NFL Scouting Combine. During his almost 40 years in journalism, which began at the now-defunct Miami News, Alain has covered practically every sport at one time or another, from tennis to golf, baseball, basketball and everything in between. The career also included time as a copy editor, including work on several books such as "Still Perfect," an inside look at the Miami Dolphins' 1972 perfect season. A native of Montreal, Canada, whose first language is French, Alain grew up a huge hockey fan but soon developed a love for all sports, including NFL football. He has lived in South Florida since the 1980s.