With the Rio Games about to open and NFL training camps on full go, it’s time to ask if any player on the Miami Dolphins has ever competed in the Olympics?
Well, technically, the answer is yes, and it’s based on the determination that, technically, Jimmy Hines was ever a football player in the first place.
Hines won the gold medal in the 100-meter run at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. Then he won gold again as a member of the U.S. 4X100 relay team. Spectacular sprint speed like that cannot be ignored, which led the Dolphins to take Hines in the sixth round of the 1968 combined NFL/AFL draft.
The franchise, in its third year of operation, was looking to promote its product at the time. That wasn’t so simple after opening seasons of 3-11 and 4-10. A curiosity like Hines was worth a shot if he sold a few tickets, or so thought Dolphins owner Joe Robbie and his player personnel man, Joe Thomas.
Also, Bob Hayes had the entire pro football industry thinking about the possibility of transforming track stars into wide receivers. Bullet Bob won the 100 at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and went on to a Hall of Fame career with the Dallas Cowboys. He previously was a halfback on a state championship team in Jacksonville and got a football scholarship to Florida A&M so he wasn’t starting from scratch.
Hines was, and being in the spotlight with the Dolphins probably didn’t help his development.
The team assigned him No. 99 and sent him out to run pass routes for quarterbacks Bob Griese and Rick Norton. It must not have gone all that well based on the fact that Hines quickly gained the locker-room nickname of “Oops.”
He spent the 1968 season on Miami’s practice squad and played a little for coach George Wilson and the Dolphins in 1969 before moving on to a brief appearance with the Kansas City Chiefs and then out of the league for good.
There’s no need making fun of him, any more than there is making light of Herschel Walker for failing to medal as a member of the 1992 U.S. Olympic bobsled team. Every sport has its own particular skill set and they need not be interchangeable, no matter how amazing the athletes involved.
Here is the full list of plays involving Hines on Miami’s 3-10-1 team from 1969.
In Game 6, a loss at Kansas City’s old Municipal Stadium, he caught one pass from Griese for 1 yard.
In Game 7, a home win over Buffalo in the Orange Bowl, he returned a punt for 22 yards. That apparently was his one and only shot at taking the kick return job from another speedy rookie named Mercury Morris.
In Game 10, Hines had his finest day as an NFL receiver, hooking up with Norton on a 22-yard catch. The wind chill was 17 degrees in Buffalo that day, however, and the Dolphins lost 28-3, so there probably wasn’t much of a celebration.
Finally, in Game 11, Hines got his only NFL carry, a 7-yard rush in a home loss to Houston. Can’t find it in the records but it almost certainly was a reverse that didn’t develop into much.
We’ll never know what Don Shula would have made of Jimmy Hines. He came on as Miami’s coach in 1970 and never worked with the Olympic hero.
Shula did have some fun in later years, however, with Mark Duper, who finished seventh in the 200-meter run at the 1980 U.S. Olympic Trials and reached the semifinals of the 100. Duper was added to the Dolphins Honor Roll in 2003, three years after Dan Marino, the quarterback who made the best use of all that blazing speed.
Hey, there were 17 rounds in the NFL/AFL draft the year that Miami took a flyer on Hines. There just wasn’t that much to lose.
Even now, if Usain Bolt showed any interest in trying football at the age of 29, it figures that some NFL team would give him a look.