Mike Kolen died Wednesday.

A stellar athlete left this earth, and a bold witness for Christ entered his eternal home. He was likely greeted by hundreds who are there because of the witness of Mike Kolen.

Mike Kolen lived up to his nickname: Captain Crunch.

Starring at what was then Hoover’s Berry High School, Kolen was recruited by Coach Ralph “Shug” Jordan and went to Auburn.

He was a linebacker by position and a hard tackler by intention.

Kolen was All-SEC twice for Auburn.

He led his Auburn team in breaking a five-year drought of losses to archrival Alabama in 1969.

The Miami Dolphins drafted him in 1970, the same time as their new head coach, Don Shula.

He played eight seasons for the Dolphins, winning back-to-back Super Bowls in 1972-73. 

There is one Dolphins play that Mike Kolen would like to have forgotten, one of the most famous plays in NFL history. The Dolphins had been back-to-back Super Bowl champions. They were in the playoffs trying to three-peat.

It was the Dec. 21, 1974, playoff game between Miami and the Oakland Raiders. With 35 seconds to play, the Dolphins led 26-21.

The Raiders had the ball 1st and goal at the Miami 8-yard line. Oakland quarterback Kenny Stabler, a University of Alabama graduate, dropped back to pass and was flushed out of the pocket. He was nearly sacked and started going down. Stabler flicked a weak pass toward running back Clarence Davis in the end zone at the last second. Davis was surrounded by three Dolphins, including Kolen. Kolen got his hands on the ball and nearly knocked it away, but somehow Davis, amidst a "sea of hands," ended up with the ball and the touchdown, giving the Raiders the win and ending the Dolphins' dynasty. The game became known in football history as the “Sea of Hands Game.”

After retiring from the NFL, Kolen worked as a fitness center owner in Montgomery in real estate and financial services.

Kolen returned to Auburn for each spring practice A-Day game for decades to present the ‘Mike Kolen Award’ to Auburn's leading tackler from the previous season.

He wrote a book in 2016, The Greatest Team: A Playbook for Champions. It is largely autobiographical.

The book’s title refers to the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the NFL's only unbeaten Super Bowl champion.

In 1969, Kolen had been the first recipient of the ‘National Christian Athlete of the Year Award.’  That award meant more to Mike Kolen than two Super Bowl rings.

Kolen had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Kolen's longtime friend and pastor, John Ed Mathison of Frazer Memorial in Montgomery, called Kolen "a servant leader."

"Mike commanded the attention of young people and athletes. He led many to faith in Christ."

Arrangements will be announced.

Jim ‘Zig’ Zeigler writes about Alabama’s people, places, events, groups and prominent deaths. He is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. You can reach him for comments at ZeiglerElderCare@yahoo.com.

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