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A tribute to former Dolphins running back Jim Kiick

Jim Kiick, a running back and important member of the Miami Dolphins Super Bowl teams of the 1970s, passed away June 20 at the age 73

The team that produced the only perfect season in NFL history, the 1972 Miami Dolphins, was the perfect example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

Yes, the team had a legendary head coach with Don Shula and a handful of Hall of Famers like Bob Griese, Larry Csonka, Larry Little, Jim Langer, Paul Warfield and Nick Buoniconti, but what it had more than anything was a whole bunch of good players working toward the common goal.

One of those players was running back Jim Kiick, who died June 20.

A fifth-round pick in 1968, Kiick was one-third of one of the greatest running back combinations in NFL history along with Csonka and Mercury Morris.

While Csonka was the bulldozer who would run through  defenders and Morris was the speedster who would run around them, Kiick was somewhere in between. He was a savvy runner with excellent hands out of the backfield.

Kiick also had a knack for finding the end zone. When the Dolphins completed their perfect season with playoff victories against the Browns, Steelers and Redskins, it was Kiick who led the way with four of the team's seven touchdowns in those three games.

Three years later, Kiick had led the entire AFL in rushing touchdowns with nine.

As proof of Kiick's versatility, he led the Dolphins in rushing in his first two seasons and led them them in receptions with 40 in 1970, the first year the team made the playoffs.

To this day, Kiick ranks fifth in Dolphins history in rushing yardage (3,644) and sixth in rushing touchdowns (28).

Kiick's Dolphins career ended when he joined Csonka and Warfield with the Memphis Southmen of the shortlived World League Football.

When the league ceased operations before the end of its second season, Kiick returned to the NFL to finish out his career with the Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins.

When the Dolphins selected their 50th Season All-Time Team, there was Kiick alongside his 1970s backfield buddies Csonka and Morris.

Kiick and Csonka both joined the Dolphins in 1968 (Csonka as a first-round pick) and they came to be known as "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," a reference to the 1969 movie.

Kiick, who was inducted into the University of Wyoming Hall of Fame in 1996, remained a popular figure after his career ended and often made his way back at Hard Rock Stadium.

He was there last December when the Dolphins honored the 1972 team. Dealing with health issues, Kiick got some help walking to the middle of the field from, who else, Csonka and Morris.

The three were featured in an NFL Network episode of "A Football Life" entitled "The Perfect Backfield."

Kiick's daughter, Allie, indicated in an emotional social media post that her father had been afflicted with Alzheimer's.

Kiick's death comes less than two months after that of Shula, who passed away May 4 at the age of 90.

Other players from the 1972 team who have died since the start of 2019 include Nick Buoniconti, Jim Langer and Bob Kuechenberg.