Dwight Stephenson, a second-round pick and the 48th player selected in the 1980 NFL Draft, excelled at center for the Miami Dolphins for eight seasons from 1980 to 1987. An All-America at the University of Alabama, the 6-2, 255-pound Stephenson lived up to all his advance notices as a Dolphin.
In just a few years, he was universally recognized as the premier center in the NFL. He earned both All-Pro and All-AFC recognition five straight years from 1983 to 1987. He was named the AFC or NFL Offensive Lineman of the Year in various major polls four years. Stephenson was selected for five straight Pro Bowl games, the first four as a starter. Injuries prevented him from playing in the 1987 and 1988 games.
Stephenson, who was born November 20, 1957, in Murfreesboro, North Carolina, was quiet, intense, hard-working and competitive. He was an exceptionally quick blocker and he possessed an explosive charge off the snap. He was the Dolphins offensive captain and his presence as the anchor of the offensive line was a major factor in the Dolphins’ record of allowing the fewest quarterback sacks in the NFL for six straight years.
In his rookie season in 1980, Stephenson spent much of his time on special teams while learning the rudiments of pro football offensive line play. His first NFL start came in 1981 when the regular center, Mark Dennard, was injured in the 11th game.
Stephenson played in 107 straight games and started in 80 consecutive games until the 1987 players’ strike ended the streak. He returned after the strike and started seven straight games before he suffered a serious left knee injury. Although he tried a comeback the next season, he was forced to retire when the injury failed to respond. Stephenson was the starting center in the 1982, 1984 and 1985 AFC championship games and in Super Bowls XVII and XIX.