In­side

Key fig­ure on one of the best of­fen­sive lines in NFL his­tory has died at the age of 71.

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - Front Page - By Omar Kelly South Flor­ida Sun Sen­tinel

Bob Kuechen­berg, a driv­ing force on the Su­per Bowl-win­ning Mi­ami Dol­phins teams of the 1970s in­clud­ing the un­de­feated 1972 squad, has died at the age of 71.

His death Satur­day was con­firmed by the Dol­phins on Sun­day, who had no fur­ther de­tails.

A na­tive of Gary, In­di­ana, Kuechen­berg, who was named a five-time All-Pro guard, played at Notre Dame be­fore he was se­lected by the Philadel­phia Ea­gles in the fourth round of the 1969 NFL draft.

Kuechen­berg, who was also known by his nick­name, “Kooch,” never played for the Ea­gles, who cut him. He then signed with the At­lanta Fal­cons, but they soon cut him, too. He ended up play­ing a year for a semi-pro team in Chicago be­fore the Dol­phins signed him as a free agent in 1970.

He played for the Dol­phins un­til he re­tired at the age of 37 and was a key fig­ure on what was viewed as one of the best of­fen­sive lines in NFL his­tory.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the fam­ily and friends of Bob Kuechen­berg,” the Dol­phins wrote on Twit­ter.

For­mer Dol­phins coach, Hall of Famer Don Shula, la­beled Kuechen­berg one of the tough­est play­ers he ever coached.

“He was one of the key per­form­ers on our cham­pi­onship team, lead­ing by ex­am­ple ev­ery time he stepped on the field,” Shula said. “That was es­pe­cially true in Su­per Bowl VIII, when he dom­i­nated Alan Page the en­tire game de­spite play­ing with a bro­ken arm, a per­for­mance that was one of the keys to vic­tory over the Vik­ings. You could count on Kooch to play well and to play hard.”

Shula pointed out that Kuechen­berg was pe­nal­ized for hold­ing only 15 times through­out his ac­com­plished ca­reer. He only missed four games in his 14 sea­sons play­ing pro­fes­sional foot­ball.

“I’ve coached a lot of Hall of Fame play­ers, in­clud­ing a num­ber of of­fen­sive linemen, and Kooch was as good as any of them,” Shula added. “I hope one day he gets that ul­ti­mate recog­ni­tion by be­ing en­shrined in Can­ton. It’s an honor long over­due, and one he cer­tainly de­serves.”

Kuechen­berg played for the Dol­phins from 1970 to 1983. He started ev­ery game for the team that went 17-0 in 1972, and started 16 games for the team that re­peated as Su­per Bowl cham­pi­ons in 1973.

He’s a mem­ber of the Dol­phins’ Honor Roll, and played in six Pro Bowls and made the list of fi­nal­ists for the Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame in Can­ton sev­eral times, but was never elected.

South Flor­ida Sun Sen­tinel sports colum­nist Dave Hyde ar­gued in a 2009 col­umn that Kuechen­berg de­served to be in the Hall.

“Talk to play­ers on the ’72 team (my cre­den­tials: I wrote a book on the ’72 team) and they’ll tell you he might have been their best line­man,” Hyde wrote.

“Larry Lit­tle and Jim Langer, of course, are in the Hall. So that tells you where Kooch stands. But those great ’72 teams weren’t the end Kuechen­berg’s port­fo­lio. It’s just the be­gin­ning.”

Kuechen­berg was a fi­nal­ist eight years in a row but in 2010 he failed to even get to the semi­fi­nals on the Hall of Fame bal­lot. Many from that leg­endary ’72 Dol­phins team are al­ready in the Hall of Fame, in­clud­ing fel­low linemen Langer and Lit­tle, and the con­sen­sus among the Hall of Fame vot­ers has been they felt that group has been suf­fi­ciently rec­og­nized.

Mon­day is the 46th an­niver­sary of the Dol­phins’ 14-7 vic­tory against the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins to com­plete their 17-0 sea­son.

In 1984, Kuechen­berg

went on in­jured re­serve and then in May 1985 an­nounced his re­tire­ment.

At the time, Kuechen­berg was the last re­main­ing ac­tive player from that sto­ried per­fect sea­son team.

In re­tire­ment, Kuechen­berg got into art col­lect­ing, which sur­prised the peo­ple who knew him as a fierce com­peti­tor.

Langer, who said he stayed in touch with Kuechen­berg, spoke with him in the past week and was shocked to learn of his death.

“He was the kind of guy you’d want in your fox­hole,” Langer said. “He played hard and was very in­tense about the game, which was typ­i­cal of our team. He was my room­mate for 10 years, and we talked foot­ball damn near all the time.”

Kuechen­berg is sur­vived by his older brother, for­mer Bears line­backer Rudy Kuechen­berg.

FILE

Bob Kuechen­berg was a key mem­ber of the Su­per Bowl-win­ning Dol­phins teams of the 1970s, in­clud­ing the un­de­feated 1972 lineup.

ROBERT MAYER/SUN SEN­TINEL FILE

Bob Kuechen­berg sits in the Dol­phins’ locker room in 1982.

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