Bob Kuechenberg, a former guard for the Miami Dolphins who was part of the only perfect season in NFL history, died on January 12, 2019, at the age of 71. The Dolphins confirmed his passing in an online statement, but did not reveal the cause of his death. Kuechenberg, who was also known as “Kooch”, was a six-time Pro Bowler, a two-time Super Bowl champion, and a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was also a member of the Dolphins Honor Roll, and was widely respected and admired by his teammates, coaches, and fans. Here is what we know about his life, career, and death.
Early Life and College Career
Bob Kuechenberg was born on October 14, 1947, in Gary, Indiana. He attended Hobart High School, where he played football for the Hobart Brickies. He then went to the University of Notre Dame, where he played both offensive and defensive lines for the Fighting Irish. He was part of the 1966 national championship team, and was named an All-American in 1968.
Professional Career and Achievements
Kuechenberg was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the fourth round of the 1969 NFL Draft, but he quit shortly after training camp started. He then played a season with the Chicago Owls in the Continental Football League, before signing with the Dolphins as a free agent in 1970. He became a starter that season, and helped the Dolphins make the playoffs for the first time in club history.
Kuechenberg was a key member of the Dolphins’ dominant offensive line, which included Hall of Famers Jim Langer, Larry Little, and Dwight Stephenson. He played in six Pro Bowls, and was named first-team All-Pro twice and second-team All-Pro once. He was also part of the 1972 Dolphins team that went 17-0, the only undefeated and untied season in NFL history. He also won two Super Bowls with the Dolphins, in 1972 and 1973.
Kuechenberg was known for his toughness, durability, and versatility. He played in 196 games, starting 176 of them. He played with a broken arm, a broken back, and various other injuries. He was praised by his coaches and teammates for his work ethic, leadership, and creativity. He retired after the 1983 season, at the age of 37.
Hall of Fame Controversy and Post-Retirement Life
Kuechenberg was a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame nine times, from 2002 to 2010, but he never made the cut. He was considered one of the most deserving players who have been snubbed by the Hall of Fame voters. He was outspoken about his frustration and disappointment, and often criticized the selection process and the voters. He also declined an invitation to the White House in 2013, when President Barack Obama honored the 1972 Dolphins team, saying that he did not agree with the president’s policies.
Kuechenberg lived in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, after his retirement. He was involved in various business ventures, such as real estate and restaurants. He also remained close to his former teammates and the Dolphins organization. He was inducted into the Dolphins Honor Roll in 1995, and was honored by the team in 2012, on the 40th anniversary of the perfect season.
Cause of Death and Tributes
Kuechenberg’s family and friends have chosen to keep the cause of his death private. His death was announced by the Dolphins on January 13, 2019, in an online statement. The statement included tributes from former Dolphins coach and Hall of Famer Don Shula, former Dolphins defensive tackle Bob Baumhower, and former Dolphins center Jim Langer. They all expressed their sadness and admiration for Kuechenberg, and highlighted his contributions and legacy to the team and the game.
Kuechenberg’s death was also mourned by many fans and media members, who shared their memories and condolences on social media. He was remembered as one of the best offensive linemen in NFL history, and one of the most beloved and respected players in Dolphins history. He was also recognized as a tough, talented, and smart leader, who lived life fully and made the world better. He is survived by his older brother, former Bears linebacker Rudy Kuechenberg.