Former Miami Dolphins punter Reggie Roby dies at 43

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

On the day before a game, when the site was a dome, as bystanders watched with amusement, Reggie Roby would swing his right leg into a football with such force it would rocket up ... up ... and bounce against the ceiling?

Did it? Could it? Some Dolphins teammates would point and nod. Others would point and argue. Then someone would toss another ball, a few more small bets would be taken and Roby would launch another football up, up, toward the ceiling. And then another.

And, well, that's how we want to remember our sports figures, isn't it? Some fun play. Some good day. Some story that sums up who they were to us, even if it couldn't possibly sum up who they were in life.

Except what hangs in the air today like one of Reggie Roby's punts is 43.

That is where you have to start today, which says this won't be much of a column, because a column makes a point or has a message, and this seems to be the sobering message the former Dolphins punter has left us.

A number.

Forty-three years old.

This is the worst part of following a team, the longer you stay with it. The seasons start flying by. The names start piling up. And some numbers you're left to define players by aren't so much different from the ones on their jerseys.

David Overstreet was 25. Larry Gordon was 29. David Woodley was 44. David Griggs 28.

We could go down the sad roster role. Bob Matheson was 49. Rusty Chambers was 27. Wayne Moore was 44.

It says something, in a franchise relatively young, that we're still at the point where players' deaths are the type that leave us shaking our heads and saying it shouldn't happen like this, not to him, not at this point.

Not to a guy like Roby, who became identified to the Dolphins more than you expect a punter ever to be identified to a team.

In some form, he broke a mold. He wasn't just a black punter, the second in the league when he arrived in 1983. He was a weapon. He made punting cool.

"My leg will be able to kick forever," he said.

That was 1985.

"He might have the world's greatest leg," the London Times wrote after watching him punt the length of a soccer field before a Dolphins exhibition game.

That was 1988.

"With his leg, he should lead the league in punting every year," coach Don Shula said.

That was 1990.

Roby, of course, led the league a couple of years, was second four more. He was human, above all else. By 1993, when he busted out of his Dolphins contract by declaring bankruptcy, that was the end of his 10-year run in South Florida.

He had health issues. He was overweight even in his playing days. He had an irregular heartbeat when he played for Tampa Bay in 1995. But he also had a right leg that made his punts spiral down like falling stars.

"His weight could've been 315 pounds and he would still get his leg up over his head, get 5.5 [seconds] hang time, kick it 80 [yards], and he could've done it with a Diet Coke in one hand and a cookie in the other," said Scott Salomon, his Coral Springs agent and friend.

The man could punt. Everyone understood that.

What that means to his six children, including four under 8, is anyone's guess. And little consolation. Because there was the sad scroll of our sporting times across ESPNEWS on Thursday, regurgitating the day's stories with emotionless zeal:

"Raiders WR Jerry Porter signs 5-year contract extension. ...

"Oriole P Jorge Julio could miss start of season. ...

"Former NFL punter Reggie Roby dies at 43. ... "

Dave Hyde can be reached at

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad