Aug 23, 2013
Mike Kolen, third row in the middle slightly left of President Obama, was on hand for the White House honor (AP photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — It took 40 years, but former Auburn standout Mike Kolen and his undefeated Miami Dolphins teammates finally made it to the White House this week.
President Obama found the time that Richard Nixon could not.
"After the 1972 season there was a lot going on at the White House with Watergate, so I don't think they were in a position to invite our team, even if they ever considered it," said Kolen, who played at Auburn from 1967-69 and earned one of the game's great linebacker nicknames in "Captain Crunch."
Tuesday was another reunion for one of the NFL's greatest teams. The Dolphins went 17-0, still an NFL best, after beating Washington in the Super Bowl. No other NFL team has gone undefefeated.
It took awhile to make it to the White House, but Kolen, now a financial advisor in Birmingham, said he didn't mind.
"Forty years later is fine. It's an honor to be at the White House, and I'm glad we were able to do it as a team. That's what it's all about to recognize that accomplishment," he said.
Born in Opelika, Kolen played his high school ball at Berry in Hoover. He played three years at Auburn on the way to becoming an All-SEC linebacker.
He was a 12th-round pick by the Dolphins, but quickly established himself as a front-line player. He started all 14 games his rookie season and had 85 tackles. By '72, the "No-Name" defense was anything but.
Kolen said he was among 31 former Dolphins who visited the White House. Coach Don Shula was there, as were other memorable players such as Bob Griese, fullback, Larry Csonka and linebacker Nick Buoniconti.
"It was a great experience for our team just to have that invitation," Kolen said. "The president went around and shook everybody's hand before we went into the press room. I told him we appreciated the invitation very much."
Kolen now waits for the next football adventure: The Gus Malzahn's debut as Auburn's head coach against Washington State in Jordan-Hare Stadium on Aug. 31.
"I'm real excited about it," Kolen said. "I don't know Coach Malzahn well, but what I do know about him I do like. He's smart, he knows football and he's a great job putting his coaching staff together, so I, like all other Auburn fans, are optimistic and excited about the year, even though it's a transition year. Maybe your expectations aren't so high — but who knows? —we could have a great year. We have the makings of a very good year."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine