Bill Stanfill, who was voted the nation's top college lineman at Georgia and starred on two Super Bowl-winning teams with the Miami Dolphins, has died. He was 69.
He died Thursday night in Albany, Georgia, the university said in a statement on behalf of the family. No cause of death was given, but Stanfill has had numerous health problems after retiring from the NFL.
Stanfill was a fearsome defensive tackle at Georgia, earning All-America honors and capturing the Outland Trophy in 1968 as the nation's best interior lineman. During his three-year college career, the Bulldogs went 25-7-1 and captured two Southeastern Conference titles.
"Bill was probably the greatest athlete as a lineman I ever coached,'' former Georgia coach Vince Dooley said.
"He could have been a great tight end as well. Against the triple option, he was the only player that could take the quarterback, the dive back, and the pitch man. Bill was a great person, great warrior, and a great Bulldog.''
Stanfill was a first-round pick of the Dolphins in 1969 and spent his entire eight-year NFL career in Miami. He earned Pro Bowl honors four times as a defensive end and was selected to The Associated Press All-Pro first team in 1972. With Stanfill leading the famed "No-Name Defense'' during the '72 season, the Dolphins became the only team to win every game -- 17-0 -- on the way to capturing a Super Bowl title.
While the team's impressive offense received far more publicity, the defense was the league's best, also featuring linebacker Nick Buoniconti, tackle Manny Fernandez, and safeties Dick Anderson and Jake Scott. The Dolphins romped to a second straight championship the following year.
"Bill was an outstanding player and a key contributor to our Super Bowl championship teams,'' said Don Shula, his coach with the Dolphins. "He was quick and he was strong, and it was almost impossible to block him. His constant pressure on the opposing quarterback helped make our great No-Name defense even better. I enjoyed coaching him, and I want to extend my condolences to his family on his passing.''
Former teammate Nat Moore, who is now Miami's senior vice president for alumni relations, said Stanfill's "gentle demeanor hid a ferocious competitive streak."
''With his intensity on the field and his wit in the locker room, he was a leader on a team that was composed of a host of unique personalities,'' Moore said. "He will be missed by everyone who was fortunate to know him, his teammates, the Dolphins organization, and the team's many fans.''
Stanfill's final two seasons were plagued by injuries, and he retired after the 1976 season. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1998 with Dooley at his side. Three years later, Stanfill was featured in a Sports Illustrated article that detailed the myriad physical problems he endured after leaving football.
He was forced to use a walker after hip-replacement surgery and still felt the effects of a near-fatal injury from a 1975 preseason game. He banged heads with a teammate and nearly severed his spinal cord.
"I can't tip my head back at all,'' said Stanfill, who had four vertebrae fused in his cervical spine. "My neck is stiff as hell. The neurosurgeons have told me that if another disk goes, I will be totally disabled.''
But he never complained about the price he paid.
"Just wish I'd made some of the money they're making today,'' he told SI. "It would make this a lot easier to live with.''
Stanfill's funeral is scheduled for Monday at First Methodist Church in Albany, where he had lived since retiring and not far from his hometown of Cairo. His family asked that those attending the service wear red and black, Georgia's colors.