Thursday, May 23, 2024

Legendary Miami Dolphin ‘Captain Crunch’ Mike Kolen Dies at 76

HomeSports NewsLegendary Miami Dolphin 'Captain Crunch' Mike Kolen Dies at 76

In a somber day for Miami Dolphins fans, Mike Kolen, the hard-hitting linebacker nicknamed “Captain Crunch” who struck fear into offensive players with his bone-jarring tackles, has died at age 76. His alma mater Auburn University regretfully announced the news on Wednesday.

While just a 12th round draft pick, an unlikely Kolen etched his name into NFL lore as a starting linebacker and key cog in the Dolphins’ famed “No-Name Defense.” This unexpected underdog story took the league by storm as the no-respect defensive unit led Miami to historic back-to-back championships in 1972 and 1973.

Kolen arrived in ’70 alongside the franchise’s new savior head coach Don Shula. From day one, the thumping “Captain Crunch” headed a defense that simply refused to get crunched itself. His savage hits quickly became the stuff of legend, laying out offensive players with seismic blows that often saw them leaving the field looking like discarded breakfast cereal bits.

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In Miami’s perfect 17-0 season cindering all opposition in ’72, Kolen made one of the defense’s numerous pivotal plays – snagging a crucial interception in the playoffs. He had another pick the following year to help the team improbably repeat as champions against mammoth odds. But it was 1973 when the bone-crushing captain truly crunched at his runaway best, setting a career-high in interceptions.

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Before his NFL glory, Kolen was an Auburn terror where he earned respect as an Alabama Sports Hall of Famer in 1985. So impressed were the Tigers, they created the Mike Kolen Award to honor the team’s leading tackler yearly – with Kolen making an annual pilgrimage to personally bestow the trophy.

“Being at Auburn’s field still gives me the chills and flashbacks of those playing days,” Kolen reflected in 2016. “Presenting that award is something I’ve absolutely cherished doing every single season without fail.”

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The inspiring overachiever later authored a book chronicling the ’72 Dolphins’ perfection. In 2017, he gutsily revealed an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, ostensinly from absorbing too many crunch-inducing hits. But Kolen had no regrets.

“I’ll never blame this game I love. Football taught me vital values for life…Playing for Auburn and the Dolphins was the grandest privilege I could ever know,” Kolen told the Miami Herald.

Now, the Captain has crunched his final whistle. But his iconic Miami legacy will violently echo forever.

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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