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Manny Fernandez was a 6’2″ defensive lineman for the Utah Utes. He lettered for three seasons, and went undrafted. Miami signed him to a free agent contract prior to the 1968 season, hoping to connect with the local Spanish-speaking community. He wore the number 75 jersey throughout his NFL career.
As a rookie, Fernandez started 11 of 13 games for the Dolphins at right defensive end. He totalled approximately 50 tackles for the Dolphins, who posted a franchise best 5-8-1 record. Miami finished at or near the bottom of every major defensive category in the AFL.
1969 would see Fernandez moved to left defensive tackle, a position he would start at for most of the next six seasons. He appeared in every game, starting 13 as Miami posted an AFL worst 3-10-1 record. For his part, Fernandez improved on his rookie season by making around 80 tackles and four sacks, two in a week 13 win over the Denver Broncos, 27-24.
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Along with the rest of the American Football League, the Dolphins joined the NFL in 1970, bringing new head coach Don Shula into the fold. The team completed a dramatic turnaround, posting a 10-4 record, earning the AFC wildcard spot. Fernandez started 12 of 13 games for Miami, collecting around 50 tackles along with one sack and a blocked field goal.
In 1971, Miami continued to improve, posting a 10-3-1 regular season record before eventually representing the AFC in Super Bowl VI. Fernandez started every game, making around 55 tackles with around six sacks through the regular season. He collected a half sack in the 27-24 two overtime victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Christmas Day, 1971, and also record a sack in the Super Bowl, a 24-3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
Fernandez started every game in Miami’s perfect 17-0 season, making around 95 tackles and five sacks. His season culminated with a 17 tackle performance in the Dolphin’s Super Bowl VII victory over the favored Washington Redskins, 14-7.
1973 would see the Dolphins repeat as Super Bowl Champions over the Minnesota Vikings 24-7 after compiling a regular season record of 12-2. Fernandez started each of the 13 games in which he appeared for the Dolphins, making approximately 90 tackles and five sacks. He also sacked Fran Tarkenton in the Super Bowl.
In 1974, Fernandez started 12 games for the Dolphins, collecting approximately 55 tackles and three sacks. Miami won the AFC East title with an 11-3 record. Fernandez collected a sack against the Oakland Raiders in the “Sea of Hands” game in the Divisional round of the playoffs, as Miami lost, 28-26.
Fernandez appeared in relief for the Dolphins in 1975, playing in parts of 10 games to finish out his career. Miami missed the playoffs with a 10-4 record, the first time since the merger that the Dolphins did not get to play extra football.
In eight seasons as a Miami Dolphin, Fernandez started 89 of 103 games on the defensive line, collecting approximately 500 tackles and 25 sacks along with six fumble recoveries. He made a sack in five consecutive postseasons, and in each of his three Super Bowl appearances.