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Nobody worships the Miami Dolphins more than Darius Rucker.
As the lead singer for Hootie and the Blowfish, he put his feelings to musical verse with the famous line, "I'm such a baby 'cause the Dolphins make me cry" for the hit song "Only Want to be With You."
Four years ago, Donruss put Rucker on his own trading card for its "Fans of the Game" series. He has sung "The Star-Spangled Banner" at numerous Dolphins games. He performed at the Hall of Fame parties for Dan Marino and Dwight Stephenson.
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|Hootie and the Blowfish singer (and Dolphins superfan) Darius Rucker says the resurgence of Ricky Williams stood out this season.|
"I love the Miami Dolphins," Rucker said Friday in an interview with ESPN.com. "The NFL is king for me, and I love the Dolphins. I have the Dolphins' emblem tattooed on my body."
But apparently even a superfan has his limits.
Rucker revealed there was a time last year when he contemplated doing away with the Dolphins -- if not in his soul, then at least on his body.
That tattoo was coming off.
Of course, he's glad he didn't go through with that idea. His Dolphins pulled off the greatest one-year turnaround in NFL history. One year removed from a 1-15 campaign, they won the AFC East with an 11-5 record.
On Sunday, Rucker will sing the national anthem in Dolphin Stadium before his team takes on the Baltimore Ravens in the playoffs.
"To have gone from 1-15 to right here is beyond any of our wildest dreams," Rucker said. "There's so much you can say about it."
Then let's hear it.
Rucker was kind enough to speak with ESPN.com from his home in Charleston, S.C. Now performing on his own with a No. 1 country song under his holster, Rucker was chilling out, watching Ole Miss beat Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl. He'll go on tour with Brad Paisley later this month and then headline a tour of his own in the summer.
So tell me how badly the Dolphins made you cry in 2007.
Darius Rucker: After going 1-15 ... Let me tell you about 1-15. I have the Dolphins emblem tattooed on my body, and when they were 0-13 I called my manager, Doc McGee. I said "Doc, I want you to find the best tattoo-removal doctor in the country because if they go 0-16 I'm getting it removed. I can't believe that we can't win a game." The next week they beat the stinky-poo Baltimore Ravens. That was a tough year to take. I watch as many Dolphins games as I can, and most years that's all 16 games. That was tough to take.
Where is this Dolphins tattoo?
DR: I have the emblem on my hip. It's something I always wanted, and as soon as we made it, I got my tattoo. That one's sacred.
And you can't turn the Dolphins logo into something else.
DR: That would have to be removed. You can't turn that into anything. It's the Dolphin with the circle and the helmet and everything. If they win a Super Bowl I might get another one.
How has this season surpassed your expectations?
DR: For me, this has been more than a dream come true. I expected 10 wins, but I didn't expect to win a division and go 11-5. After last year, 7-9 would have been great.
Ten wins? Really?
DR: I'm telling you, man. I just thought we were just a handful of plays away from having seven wins last year. We didn't get blown out of a lot of games. We were in games, and we had a lot of quarterback problems.
How does a kid from Charleston, S.C., become a Dolphins fan?
DR: I'll never forget it. It was January 1972. I was 5 years old, and the Dolphins were playing the Cowboys in the Super Bowl. I have a really big family, 14 kids and two aunts and my mom, and we were all together at the house. Everybody in the house was going for the Cowboys. I remember it so vividly. When the game started I decided I was going to pull for the Dolphins. I remember the Cowboys beating the Dolphins in the Super Bowl and me just being heartbroken at the end of that game. I think I even cried.
Then the next year I started playing organized football, and they went undefeated. So all that goes hand in hand. Ever since then the Dolphins have been my team.
And then your music career got you even closer to the Dolphins ...
DR: We were putting out our third single, and we had a meeting with Atlantic Records. They said "You guys need to do a video for 'Only Want to be With You.'" I remember saying in the meeting "Well, I want to meet Dan Marino. We ought to do some sort of video where we could put Dan Marino in it." Then everybody in the band started talking about people we wanted to meet, Fred Couples, some guys from ESPN, some other folks, some basketball players. All of a sudden we have the "Only Want to be With You" video drawn up.
The day I met Dan Marino is still one of those days I'll never forget. Yeah, my music career just opened all that up. I've done the national anthem at the World Series. I've done playoff games. My music career has opened everything up. Just because I can sing.
What was that day like when you met Dan Marino?
DR: Aw, man. We were standing there in Chicago, where I think Dan was playing in Mike Ditka's golf tournament. We were standing on this high school field in Chicago, waiting for him to come, and he gets out of the limo. I'm shaking. I was amazingly nervous. He gets about 10 yards away from me, and I'm holding a football in my hand, and he puts his hands up in the universal sign to throw it to him. I throw him the ball, and he says "Go deep." Like a 5-year-old I sprinted down that field as fast as my 28-year-old body would take me. He threw the ball and from there it was great day and a great friendship. The last three years of his career I went to every home game and spent the weekend at his house.
Did you catch the pass?
DR: I did! But later I had to do some acting because in the video they wanted me to drop the ball. So I did.
Based on how far they've come in a year, could the Dolphins possibly make you cry Sunday?
DR: Oh, no. The two things that I know I'm going to do Sunday is when I see Chad Pennington, I'm going to walk up to him and I'm going to shake his hand and look him in the eyes as a man and say "I was wrong about you, and you are a wonderful, wonderful football player, and I'm so glad the Miami Dolphins are blessed to have you as a quarterback." And the second thing is I'm going to enjoy whatever happens in that game, win or lose. Our franchise is on the way up. We haven't won a championship in 30 years, and I haven't felt this good about our chances since Dan Marino retired.
What was it you thought about Chad Pennington that you would need to apologize for?
DR: I felt what everybody else said, that he didn't have a strong enough arm.
Before he was with the Dolphins, when I'm watching eight NFL games at the same time, it's very rare back in the day I would have the Jets on the main TV, where I'm seeing every throw he makes or every play. I heard what people were saying, and I was taking what I would see in the highlights. When the Dolphins picked him up I thought "Well, I hope he's solid." He was more than solid. I hope we have him for four or five more years.
You're going to lose your status as the No. 1 Dolfan once word gets out you were going to have your tattoo removed and you didn't believe in Chad Pennington.
DR: No! Let's get this straight. I didn't believe in Chad Pennington as a Jet. As a Dolphin, I believed in him.
OK. You redeemed yourself by reversing your opinion on blind faith. What else stands out for you about this season?
DR: The resurgence of Ricky Williams. I'm so happy for Ricky. He's been through so much controversy and so many ups and downs. For him to have his life in order now ... That 51-yard run he had [for a touchdown in Week 10 against Seattle], I didn't know Ricky was still that fast. And I don't think anybody in the NFL knew Ricky was still that fast. When he did, I just took a step back. I'm happy with Chad winning the Comeback Player of the Year Award, but I hope people look at Ricky Williams' story and see a positive ending to that whole thing. As much bad pub as he gets, I hope he gets some good pub for being a part of the season they had.
Since you mention Ricky, who has been with them the longest, do you know many Dolphins anymore?
DR: Man, I was thinking about this the other day. I can't think of anybody on the team. Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas and Olindo Mare were my last links to the Dolphins, the guys I would talk to. I was shocked when I realized I don't really know anybody anymore. But I'm going to change that because if we don't win it this year, next year we're winning the Super Bowl. Just so you know. And I want my ring. When Dan was playing, I knew that if he won a Super Bowl I could hornswoggle my way into getting a ring. Now I'd have to really pull some strings. I've got to get a ring.
At what point in the season did you start to believe? Was it the game they broke out the Wildcat to beat the Patriots in Week 3 or sometime after?
DR: That was the game. I knew that was the first time people were seeing [the Wildcat] and everybody was going to catch up with it, and it wasn't ever going to work like that again. But just the fact that we had coaches who were so inventive and who were so willing to take a try, that did it for me. They didn't just shock the Patriots. They shocked the NFL. Everybody in the NFL went "What the hell just happened?" They crushed the Patriots' defense. Now more than half the NFL teams have a Wildcat package in their playbook because the Dolphins did it. That was the point where I said "We could make the playoffs." That's when I started to believe my 10 wins could really, really, really happen. I knew we had the coaching.
So what were you thinking after they started 0-2?
DR: That was rough, but I always try to be positive. Even last year, when we were 0-5, I was still telling people we were going 10-6 and making the playoffs. But in the back of your mind you're thinking "Nothing's changed." But you don't let that get to you because two games does not a season make.
The Dolphins are 11-5, man. They went into New York, went into the place that sucks to play in. They went into the place where they had a game on television where they didn't have any announcers, Dan Marino throws six touchdowns and Miami loses. You can't go into New York as a Dolphin team and win when you have to the last game of the season, especially when Brett Favre has to win also. And the Dolphins win. They didn't do anything fancy. They did exactly what they did all year. They played great defense. The offense did what it took. They win.
If we get blown out on Sunday, it's still one of the greatest Dolphins seasons ever.