The number 13 has been considered unlucky from the time of ancient Christianity, and the illogical-but-persisting belief continues today in anyone the least bit superstitious.
Yet players drafted 13th have proved very lucky for a lot of teams in various sports through the years — worth noting as the Miami Dolphins prepare to select No. 13 overall in next week’s NFL Draft.
Four future Pro Football Hall of Famers were drafted 13th — Bob Lilly, Franco Harris, Kellen Winslow Sr. and Tony Gonzalez — and another sure to get to Canton, Ohio, Aaron Donald, is currently playing.
Kobe Bryant bounced into the NBA at No. 13. So did Karl Malone. In baseball, Manny Ramirez arrived 13th and so did 240-game winner Frank Tanana, and current ace Chris Sale.
(I’d also note that wearing a number 13 uniform has been survived rather nicely by athletes from Wilt Chamberlain and Alex Rodriguez to Kurt Warner and Steve Nash to James Harden and Odell Beckham Jr. Almost forgot. That Dan Marino guy was pretty good, too, despite wearing that onerous numeral).
Next Thursday night, barring a trade up or down, will mark only the fourth time in 54 drafts that the Dolphins have selected 13th overall.
(If you’re wondering, the Miami Heat has never drafted 13th. The Florida Panthers will for the first time this June. And the Marlins — oddly but perhaps fittingly — have drafted 13th each of the past two years, selecting a lefty starter and an outfielder now both in Class A ball).
The Dolphins’ three previous No. 13 draft picks have been two examples of great luck and one of tragedy:
▪ The most recent 13: The bizarre tumble of Laremy Tunsil (2016): Draft nights don’t get much stranger than the sudden appearance on social media of a video that shows the draft’s top-rated offensive tackle wearing a gas mask and smoking marijuana from a bong. Tunsil, from Ole Miss, had been speculated to be the overall No. 1 pick or at least top five, but teams scared by that video let him fall to Miami.
“I made a mistake, a huge mistake,” he would say later.
Tunsil’s mistake was the Fins’ great fortune. He has been a solid left tackle for three seasons — the only steady fixture on the line — and was rewarded this week when the club exercised its fifth-year option to keep Tunsil at least another two seasons.
▪ The first 13: The strange availability of A.J. Duhe (1977): Duhe, a linebacker/end hybrid out of LSU, had chosen an agent named Howard Slusher, who was then a pariah to many NFL general managers at a time when rookie holdouts were common. In fact Slusher told Duhe not to tell teams who his agent was.
The Bills, picking 12th, called Duhe on draft day.
Buffalo: “We’ve heard Howard Slusher may be your agent.”
Duhe, who preferred not to play or live in the freezing cold: “Yes, he will be my agent.”
Buffalo: “We’ll be back in touch.”
Phone rings minutes later and it’s Dolphins GM Bobby Beathard telling Duhe he had been drafted by Miami.
Duhe was thrilled. The Dolphins would be, too.
Duhe was AP Defensive Rookie of the Year. He would be a solid defender for eight seasons and famously had one of the greatest individual games by a defensive player in club history in the 1982 AFC Championship Game — three interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, in a 14-0 mudfest win over the Jets.
▪ The middle 13: Tragedy in Winona, Texas (1981): Miami drafted Oklahoma running back David Overstreet in ‘81, but could not agree to contract terms. He played two seasons with Montreal in the CFL before at last signing with the Dolphins for the 1983 season (Marino’s rookie year). He showed great promise, rushing for 392 yards and a 4.6 average, including 179 yards on 27 carries the last two games. He then had 50 yards on nine carries in a playoff loss.
He looked like a future star.
He would never play again.
Overstreet was driving straight through from Detroit (where he had appeared at a Billy Sims football camp) to his home in East Texas when, on June 24, 1984, he fell asleep at the wheel. His silver Mercedes 450SL smashed through a utility pole and careened into two gas pumps, causing a massive explosion.
They identified Overstreet through dental records, a gold ring bearing the letter “O,” and a gold chain with 20, his Dolphins number. He was 25 years old.
I read a list once that cruelly included Overstreet among the team’s biggest draft “busts.”
No! He was a good draft pick. In his one season he showed every indication of being a star running back. He should have been the one great back that Marino never really had, but fate had another plan.
As the Dolphins prepare to select 13th next week, there have been two instances of that number bringing with it much luck, and one tragic exception.