Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Birthday Larry Csonka

Happy 61st birthday to former Miami Dolphins fullback Larry Csonka. During the 1970s, Csonka was pro football's most powerful running back who often trampled and knocked over defenders like a Mack truck through bowling pins. He was the face and personification of the great Dolphin teams of the early 1970s--including the 1972 undefeated team.

Born Lawrence Richard Csonka in Stow, Ohio, he grew up on a farm as one of six children from a Hungarian family. Csonka was always unusually large and strong. He weighed 10 pounds when he was born and weighed 150 pounds by the age of 12.

His football career began at Stow-Munroe Falls High School where he played defensive end as a sophomore. His transition to running back came as an accident. In the final game of his sophomore year he was sent in as a substitute as a kickoff returner. He returned the kick almost for a touchdown and nearly ran over the entire opposing team. From that point on, it was obvious Csonka had a gift for running with the football. By his senior year, Csonka led his high school team to the Metropolitan League Championship in Akron, Ohio. He graduated in 1964 and earned a football scholarship to Syracuse University.

In his three seasons on the Syracuse varsity, Csonka broke school records that were previously held by great players like Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, Jim Nance and Floyd Little. He finished his college career with 2,934 yards, 14 100-yard games and was named consensus All American by his senior year in 1967. He finished 4th in the Heisman Trophy voting and was selected in the first round by the Dolphins in the 1968 NFL Draft.

Csonka was the workhorse of Dolphin teams that dominated the NFL in the early 1970s. He led the Dolphins to three consecutive AFC Championships in 1971, 1972 and 1973. He surpassed 1,000 yards rushing in all three seasons with his best production--1,117 yards--coming during the Dolphins' perfect season in 1972. All AFC three straight seasons (1971-73) and All Pro in 1971, Csonka was selected to play in five consecutive Pro Bowls from 1970 to 1974, although injuries forced him to miss two of those games.

His most memorable performance came in Super Bowl VIII, when he was selected most valuable player. Miami's powerful rushing attack was at its best with Csonka carrying 33 times for a then-Super Bowl record 145 yards and 2 touchdowns as the Dolphins beat the Minnesota Vikings 24-7. He finished his pro career with 8,081 yards rushing and fumbled only 21 times in 1,997 career ball handling opportunities.

Csonka startled the pro football world by playing out his option with the Dolphins in 1974 to join the Memphis Southmen of the World Football League, along with Dolphin teammates Jim Kiick and Paul Warfield. When the WFL folded, he joined the New York Giants as a free agent in 1976. He enjoyed moderate success with the Giants before returning to the Dolphins fo a final 1979 season.

After his football career, Csonka has become a motiviational speaker and has hosted several hunting and fishing shows on the old Outdoor Life Network. He once worked as the General Manager of the Jacksonville Bulls of the United States Football League and even co-hosted the TV show American Gladiators from 1990 to 1993. He currently lives in Anchorage, Alaska.

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