Saturday, October 6, 2007

Happy Birthday Jimmy Cefalo

Happy 51st birthday to former Miami Dolphins receiver and current radio broadcaster Jimmy Cefalo. Cefalo has been a South Florida resident since he began his rookie year with the Dolphins in 1978.

Born James Carmen Cefalo in Pittston, Pennsylvania, Cefalo was a hometown and home state hero at Pittston Area High School just outside Scranton. He starred as a running back and was considered one of the greatest high school players to come out of Pennyslvania in the 1970s. In 1973 Cefalo was named to the prestigious Parade All American High School Football Team. That Parade All American squad included future hall of famers Joe Montana and Earl Campbell. He was also named to the Pennsylvania Football News All Century Team. An excellent student, Cefalo was recruited by virtually every football power in the country. He ultimately chose to stay in his native state and play for Joe Paterno at Penn State.

At 5'11 and 190 pounds, Cefalo made the switch from running back to wide receiver and also returned punts during his Penn State career. In 1974 he became the first true freshman to start at Penn State during the Paterno era. As a senior, he led Penn State in all-purpose yardage and was the MVP of the 1975 Cotton Bowl and 1976 Gator Bowl. In the classroom, Cefalo was a dean's student and graduated with a degree in journalism. He had written articles about his college experience that appeared in the New York Times.

In 1978 the Miami Dolphins chose Cefalo in the 3rd round of the NFL draft. He would spend the next 6 years playing wide receiver for another coaching legend Don Shula. Not blessed with great size or blazing speed, Cefalo did possess very good quickness and dependable hands. He caught 93 passes for 1,739 yards and 13 touchdowns in his pro career. His best season came in 1981 when he caught 29 passes for 631 yards and 3 TDs, averaging a whopping 21.8 yards per catch.

Cefalo was one of the few players in Dolphins history with the distinction of catching passes from both of Miami's hall of fame quarterbacks Bob Griese and Dan Marino. He played in two Super Bowls and scored on a 76 yard pass from David Woodley in Super Bowl XVII against the Redskins despite playing with the flu and a 100+ degree fever. At the time, the touchdown was the 2nd longest touchdown pass in Super Bowl history. He also caught Dan Marino's record setting touchdown pass in 1984 to break George Blanda's season record for TD passes. On January 20, 1985, Cefalo played his final football game in a 38-16 loss to the 49ers in Super Bowl XIX. The Dolphins haven't reached the Super Bowl since.

Near the end of his football career, Cefalo first showed off his talents as a broadcaster working as a reporter and host of the local TV show PM Magazine. He was not your typical football player. He possessed the gift for gab and was blessed with a smooth voice and delivery. He later worked as correspondent for NBC News and the Today Show and also worked was a color commentator on NBC's NFL broadcasts with veteran play by play announcer Charlie Jones. His most memorable broadcast was the 1987 Fiesta Bowl between Penn State and Miami. It is still the most watched college football game of all time. Cefalo won an Emmy Award for his writing during NBC's coverage of the 1988 Olympic games in Seoul, South Korrea. He also spent a brief time as a TV game show host for the show Trump Card.

After his stint at NBC, Cefalo returned to South Florida and worked for over a decade as the sports anchor for WPLG Channel 10. The National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association named him Florida Sportscaster of the Year five times (1998, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004). For the past two years, Cefalo has been the radio play-by-play voice for the Miami Dolphins working with Joe Rose and Jim Mandich.

But Cefalo's talents and interests go beyond football and broadcasting. He is a well known wine connioseur with over 1,200 bottles in his personal wine cellar. His family has been in the wine business for several generations, and this love of wine has led to two Miami-area emporiums: Cefalo's Wine Cellar and Cefalo's Wine Corner. He also founded Cefalo's Cave Club, a $300-a-month private club with personal wine lockers, tastings, classes and meals. Cefalo currently lives in Miami Beach with his wife Janice and three daughters.

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