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57 Days 'Til Alabama Football Kickoff: Dwight Stephenson

Charity didn't end when the football career did for Dwight Stephenson.

Dwight Stephenson's induction into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1998.
Dwight Stephenson's induction into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1998.
Elsa/Getty Images

In recent weeks we have reminisced about former Bama stars Sylvester Croom, Chris Samuels, John Hannah, and Barrett Jones. It would be criminal to speak of Crimson Tide offensive line legends and not bring up #57 Dwight Stephenson. Like many of the above mentioned men, Stephenson was a great player and is a great person.

Stephenson came to Tuscaloosa from Hampton, Virginia. A master of leverage, speed and power, he was the indispensable anchor of the Tide wishbone attack that won the 1978 and 1979 National Championships. The Crimson Tide went 34-2 in his three seasons of eligibility. He was named All-American and won the Jacobs Trophy in 1979, as the SEC's best blocker.

Paul "Bear" Bryant once famously remarked that Stephenson was "the best center I ever coached. He was a man among children."

Stephenson was drafted in the second round of the 1980 NFL Draft and played eight seasons with the Dolphins (1980-87) before having his career ended prematurely after sustaining a serious knee injury late in 1987 - a freak accident when he was hit by former Bama teammate Marty Lyons of the NY Jets on an interception. At Miami, he was reunited with star Tide running back Tony Nathan. They two played together in Super Bowls XVII and XIX.

Stephenson was selected to five consecutive Pro Bowls (1983–1987). He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1998 and was named to the Dolphins’ Honor Roll in 1994. Many consider him to be the greatest center to ever play the game.

In addition to his excellence on the field, he has excelled in his leadership off the field in the Miami community. In 1985, he was named the Walter Payton Man of the Year, an award presented annually to a player for excellence on the field who also makes an impact in his community. His foundation still thrives today.

The Dwight Stephenson Foundation combines the sports and business communities in an effort to generate increased funding for charities that provide educational, health and human services to support the needs of children and families.

The second of three former Tide players to win the Walter Payton Award (Marty Lyons 1984, Derrick Thomas 1993), he was also named the Walter Camp Man of the Year in 2005 for his continued community service and the 2010 recipient of the President Gerald R. Ford Legends Award.

To be considered for the President Gerald R. Ford Legends Award, candidates must have either played the center position at the collegiate or professional level, made extraordinary contributions to his team during his football career, or have proven to be an exemplary citizen, philanthropist or leader in the business or football community.

Stephenson may have hung up the cleats long ago but his acts of class and charity continue on.

Watch big #57 utterly dominate his Cornhusker counterparts on this "99-yard and two feet" drive in the 1978 season, a 20-3 Tide victory.