Dick Anderson sat down to write an e-mail to his 1972 Miami Dolphins teammates Tuesday morning about the one-year anniversary of Don Shula’s death when it hit him again how many of them are gone.
He didn’t need to count. The number is always with him.
“Sixteen,’' the Dolphins great said.
They were his friends, his teammates, his football family through life. Sixteen players and coaches of this 1972 team — four just this past year alone — are gone, their deaths coming in a world so full of death they couldn’t get a proper goodbye from the team.
“Don’s death, that hit all of us,’' said Anderson, the former Dolphins safety. “He meant so much to us right from our start with him. It was night and day from the minute he walked in the door.
“He was a screamer as a coach. We’d laugh about it. Nick [Buoniconti] would go up to him and say, ‘Quit yelling at Anderson.’ He’d say, ‘Go back to your position – Anderson plays harder when I yell.’ I’d say, ‘You only think I do.’ ’'
Buoniconti , of course, is gone a couple of years now, too. He wasn’t just Anderson’s defensive captain but Coral Gables neighbor. Anderson even picked out his house on the Riviera Country Club a couple houses down from him and across the street from Bob Griese.
That’s how they all were not just in football but forever after it.
“A team,’' he said.
Anderson even organized a company years ago for the full 1972 team to share in its memorabilia profits. Every five years at reunions they sign 1,500 to 2,500 footballs, helmets and jerseys to sell.