Remembering Former Redskin RB Benny Malone (1952-2020)
Former Redskins running back Benny Malone died last week (March 19).
Malone who played for the Redskins in the 1978 and 1979 seasons, was suffering from complications due to a battle with Diabetes.
After appearing in six games of the 1978 season for the Miami Dolphins, Malone and a draft choice were traded to the Redskins for fullback Jim Braxton and a draft choice in a mid-season October 10 trade.
Playing in the final nine games of the 1978 regular season for the burgundy and gold, Malone rushed 27 times, gaining 92 yards also catching three passes for 29 yards. Malone would start all 16 games of the 1979 season in the backfield along with Hall-of-Fame running back John Riggins.
Malone amassed 472 yards in 176 carries, scoring three touchdowns. Coming out of the backfield, Malone also averaged 10.5 yards per pass reception on 13 receptions for 137 yards. Riggins rushed 260 times gaining 1,153 yards for nine touchdowns and caught 28 passes for 163 yards and three touchdowns.
One memorable moment for me in that 1979 season was a road game in Detroit, in which a potent John Riggins’ block knocked the helmet off the Lions’ James Hunter, clearing the way for Malone to score on the play.
1979 - his second season in Washington, would be Malone’s final season in the NFL. In his final game as a Redskin, Malone came out of the left side of the backfield, beat Cowboy linebacker DD Lewis to the middle of the field, catching a Joe Theismann pass and rumbled 55 yards for a touchdown, giving Washington a 17-0 lead (see at 48:00),
However, the Redskins would surrender two late touchdowns to the Cowboys, losing 35-34, finishing their regular season at 10-6, missing out on the fourth and final playoff spot.
Born February 3, 1952 in Tyler Texas, Malone would graduate high school and go on to play three varsity seasons (Freshmen were ineligible in those days) at Arizona State.
Redskins fans will be interested to learn, Malone’s teammate and starting quarterback was former Dallas Cowboy Danny White.
In a game at Oregon State (Oct. 27, 1973), Malone ran for 250 yards in only 24 carries.
In 1983, Malone was inducted into the Sun Devil Athletics Hall of Fame.
Using a bruising running style, Malone ran over and through opponents in his senior season, accumulating 1,129 yards and scoring 15 touchdowns.
Malone’s 6.4 yards per carry impressed NFL scouts, resulting in Malone’s being drafted in the second round of the 1974 NFL Draft by the Super Bowl champion Miami Dolphins.
Malone’s older brother Art, was also running back for the Atlanta Falcons (1970-74) and Philadelphia Eagles (1975-76).
In one of the greatest NFL playoff games I ever watched as kid, Benny Malone executed a major significant run for the Dolphins. NFL Films decades later produced an episode entitled, “The Top Ten Greatest Forgotten Plays in NFL History”, and Malone’s noteworthy run actually made the top ten.
Malone’s explosive run in that historic playoff game was voted the No. 9 most forgotten play (yes, I honestly had remembered the play from my childhood).
The December 21, 1974 playoff game matched the Dolphins, two-time defending champs, against the Oakland Raiders, whom Miami had defeated 27-10 the previous season in the AFC championship game.
Don Shula (Miami) and John Madden (Oakland) were the two head coaches that memorable playoff day. In this playoff rematch, trailing Miami 19-14, in the fourth quarter, Ken Stabler connected with Cliff Branch for about 40 yards, as Branch made a diving catch. Untouched, Branch hopped up, and eluded two Miami defenders for a 71–yard touchdown, providing Oakland a 21-19 lead.
Responding, Miami drove right back down the field and on first-and-ten from the Oakland 23, Bob Griese turned to his right, handed the ball to Malone, who was being led by Hall-of-Fame guard Larry Little. Malone got to the right sideline, pushed aside one Raider defender, then broke a tackle inside the 10-yard line, scoring an electrifying 23-yard touchdown giving Miami a 26-21 lead with 2:08 to play.
Perhaps Malone’s tremendous run was too good, leaving more time on the clock for Oakland. The Raiders’ Ken Stabler falling as he was being tackled, managed to get his pass to a closely guarded Clarence Davis in the end zone for a 28-26 Raiders win, in what became known as the “Sea of Hands” game, ending the Dolphins three-year AFC reign and two-year NFL reign.
Malone was an All-State football player and Track and Field Athlete (Hurdles and Shot Put) in Eloy AZ. Following his NFL Career, Malone and his wife, Laura started a business making custom T-Shirts for over 30 years. Their company, Malone Sports and Print, graciously donated new clothing to victims of Hurricane Katrina as well as the Salvation Army.
Ivan Lambert is a lifelong die-hard Washington Redskins fan, raised in Berryville, Virginia. He is married and the father of two fine young men. He is currently a sports correspondent for The Ledger in Lakeland, Florida and can be found on Twitter @IvanLambert18