Even four decades later, Karl Noonan still relives the perfect season.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Miami Dolphins’ magical run through the NFL, a 14-0 regular season culminated with a Super Bowl championship — a feat that has yet to be duplicated by any other franchise in the Super Bowl age.
“When we did that, we thought another team would match it in three or four years,” Noonan said. “For it to reach 40 years now, it has really established itself as a benchmark as one of the all-time greatest records that has ever been accomplished.”
Noonan and Stanislaw “Stas” Maliszewski, both 1962 Davenport Assumption alums and football standouts, were back in the Quad-Cities this weekend for their 50-year class reunion.
Other than a trip to speak at a football awards banquet in Iowa City in 1976, it is Noonan’s first venture back to the area since graduating from Assumption.
“I had to make it back here for this week,” Noonan said during halftime of Assumption’s football game against Clinton on Thursday night. “I went around the old neighborhoods and they haven’t changed a whole lot.
“I haven’t gotten to the northern part of town where all the new growth has taken place. I’d probably get lost up there.”
The 68-year-old Noonan, who resides in a Charlotte, N.C., suburb, played primarily quarterback at Assumption before developing into an all-American receiver at Iowa.
He then spent six seasons in the NFL, none more noteworthy than his last in 1972.
A year after losing to the Dallas Cowboys in the Super Bowl, Miami — coached by Hall of Famer Don Shula and featuring quarterback Bob Griese and fullback Larry Csonka — returned on a mission.
“Back then, we didn’t have free agency,” Noonan said. “If you were good and coaches liked you as a player, they kept you. We had very little turnover, so it was virtually the same team year in and year out.”
Because of that, the Dolphins formed a tight bond and survived two close calls to finish the regular season unscathed.
“We had a real resolve about us,” Noonan said. “The total focus was to reach the Super Bowl and win. I still remember in the locker room after the regular season was over, there was a quirky smile on our face. We knew we were going to run the table.”
In the Super Bowl, Miami jumped out to a two-touchdown cushion over the Washington Redskins and hung on for a 14-7 victory.
Since then, nobody has matched the accomplishment.
The 2007 New England Patriots were close, compiling a 16-0 regular season and two playoff wins before losing in the Super Bowl to the New York Giants.
“I was watching the game and divine intervention came in when (David Tyree, Giants receiver) caught that football on his helmet,” Noonan said. “We were very happy, to say the least.
“With all the media attention and Internet now, there is so much more pressure on these guys. Plus, there is a lot more competitive balance in the NFL.”
The ’72 Dolphins gather every five years to celebrate that season, and they’ll do so again this December.
“It’s a really big thing in Miami — almost like a rock star type deal,” Noonan said. “There is a movement in south Florida right now to get our team invited to the White House (something typical now for championship teams).
“Our team has never been invited, so with this being 40 years, now is the time.”
Noonan, who is semi-retired and speaks at charity events, has overcome health problems in recent years, including cancer.
To this day, he still sports his Super Bowl ring from that perfect season.
“Mel Blount (former Pittsburgh Steeler) — who has got four of them told me, ‘There are only 43 of those (rings from the perfect season) in the world,’” Noonan said. “I thought to myself and said, ‘That is pretty strong coming from him.’
“I never thought about it that way, but those are the big daddies right there.”