In December 2002, O.J Simpson told the Palm Beach Post that it was a “travesty” that the greatness of the Miami Dolphins defense was solely represented by Nick Buoniconti in the Hall of Fame.
“If there’s ever an assistant coach that deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, [Bill] Arnsparger is that guy,” Simpson said.
In front of a smattering of fans who showed up at Sun Life Stadium on Sunday, the Dolphins honored the 40th anniversary of the 1972 team’s season and finally inducted defensive coordinator and assistant coach Arnsparger to the honor roll in a special halftime ceremony.
“When I look back and see the players who made that season possible, it brings back so many memories,” coach Don Shula said during the event, surrounded by his former team wearing their jerseys on the field. “Fifty-two years before we did it, and nobody’s been able to do it since then.”
Arnsparger came to Miami from the Colts before the 1970 NFL season when Shula became the head coach. He embarked on his journey, creating a legacy in the Dolphins club over the span of two tenures and 12 seasons.
“He took a bunch of no names and made them into the best defensive team probably in the history of the game,” Buoniconti said to the crowd of his coach and friend Arnsparger.
He was the mastermind behind the “No Name Defense” that helped lift the Dolphins to the only perfect season in NFL history in 1972, and a second Super Bowl title the following year in 1973. Through the two Super Bowl wins, Arnsparger’s defense gave up just one touchdown.
Arnsparger’s son, David, was on hand to accept the award on his father’s 86th birthday. The elder Arnsparger is the 25th member and the first assistant coach to join the group, voted in by a selection committee.
“Although I played on the other side of the ball, I had great appreciation and profound respect for this man’s ability to nullify the great passers of that era in pro football,” former wide receiver Paul Warfield said. “I had to work against those defenses every day in practice.”
Arnsparger’s name is spelled out high above the field, in between linebacker Buoniconti and offensive lineman Larry Little. David Arnsparger had trouble getting through his speech, overcome with emotion. He’s been asked about what the magnitude of a perfect season means to his father since he was 7 years old.
“At that time, it was just what we did. We didn’t know any different,” David Arnsparger said. “But you get older, it gets more special. To hear Nick [Buoniconti] talk about dad just brings tears to my eyes.”
It was hard not to feel the significance of the award for the family, as Arnsparger choked up saying: “I’m very proud of my dad.”
Also honored at Sunday’s contest were the unsung heroes.
The Dolphins organization selected six players to the Walk of Fame for their unselfish contributions to their teams and for going above and beyond their role. Receiving the award were defensive tackle Tim Bowens, linebacker/defensive end AJ Duhe, defensive end Manny Fernandez, wide receiver Nat Moore, and quarterbacks Earl Morrall and Don Strock.