Number 81 and the Three Dolphins Who Wore It Best

Alain Poupart

The countdown to the start of the 2020 regular season has begun now that we're under 100 days away, so we'll honor every day the best players to wear the correspondent number for the Dolphins.

Today, we're at number 81.

The top players at each number so far have been:

99 - DE/LB Jason Taylor

98 - DL Jared Odrick

97 - DT Jordan Phillips

96 - DT Paul Soliai

95 - DT Tim Bowens

94 - DT Randy Starks

93 - DE Trace Armstrong

92 - LS John Denney

91 - DE/LB Cameron Wake

90 - DE/LB Marco Coleman

89 - WR Nat Moore

88 - TE Keith Jackson

87 - TE Andre Tillman

86 - WR Oronde Gadsden

85 - LB Nick Buoniconti

84 - DE Bill Stanfill

83 - WR Mark Clayton

82 - WR Brian Hartline

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:

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 (2018-19)

The debate:

There's been a lot more continuity with number 81 than just about any previous number we've examined so far, with four 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. Finally, 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.

Worth noting:

Robert Clark joined the Dolphins as a Plan B free agent (remember that?) in 1992 after averaging 47 catches the previous three seasons, but was gone after catching only three passes in three games. ... Scott Schwedes was the Dolphins punt return for three-plus seasons and he took one back for a touchdown in 1989. ... Randal Hill wore 81 as a rookie first-round pick in 1991, but the Dolphins traded him to the Cardinals after just one game in exchange for a 1992 first-round pick. Hill wore 89 when he was back in 1995-96. Joey Haynos, a 6-foot-8 tight end, started eight games in 2009.

The top three:

1. WR O.J. McDuffie

2. TE Randy McMichael

3. WR Howard Twilley

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