Clayton, Duper: Big night for Marks brothers

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

There was a game. Well, actually, too many games. Too many for Mark Clayton to cite one above the others. Certainly not enough time to chronicle them all, not with less than three hours until the once-in-a-lifetime event Clayton and Mark Duper had come here for.

But Dan Marino always had that quick release."I got one," a grinning Marino said, flanked during Monday's pregame press box Honor Roll plaque unveiling by as dynamic a duo of receivers any football team has had. "We were playing Chicago [in 1991] and it was miserable, and the wind was blowing. We go into overtime and Mark [Clayton] says, `Let me go deep on these guys and we'll end this game right now.' I said, `Are you sure? Are you ready to go deep?' He said, `I'll end it right here, but when I end it, I'm going to go right into the locker room.' So I called the play and threw it, and he slides on his back and he catches the ball one-handed. He didn't score the touchdown, but he runs over to the 5 and plants the ball where we could kick the field goal and runs into the locker room."

That story stuck out as you watched Duper and Clayton walk back on this field at halftime, on the big stage as they deservedly became the 13th and 14th inductees into the Dolphin Honor Roll. This place was not cold, not with so many hands pressed together, not with so many fans who appreciated their accomplishments taking them in their collective embrace.

Still, Marino said he felt chills even before that ceremony started, partly because he had spent some recent time watching Marks Brothers tapes with his son Michael. So surely Clayton and Duper felt some strong emotions too, even though Clayton promised to keep them inside to avoid validating those predicting he would cry. They must have felt something when their highlights played on the big screen, when more than 50 former Dolphins in alumni coats surrounded them, when Don Shula introduced them as the greatest pair of wide receivers in NFL history, when Van Halen's Right Now ushered them onto the stage. And mostly, when Marino announced that their names and numbers would go with his above the east end zone, "where [they] should be, on the right and the left."

Right then, neither Marks Brother was in a hurry to get to a locker room.

Neither could have wanted to leave this field.

After Clayton, dressed in all black, offered thanks to various parties, he implored the fans to "yell so loud in the second half to wake these guys up and bring these guys home."

Then Duper yelled.

"Hello, South Florida!"

Duper, dressed all in white but for his black boots, thanked Marino for throwing him all those footballs, Shula for drafting him when he knew nothing about playing football, his family for sticking by him and the fans.

"We didn't win a Super Bowl," said Duper, whose daughter Tracy was celebrating her 14th birthday. "But we had a hell of a lot of fun."

South Florida sure did, watching them for a decade, cheering those 1,061 catches, 140 for touchdowns. And they sure had fun just being together, even if it might not have all seemed fun at the time. That's what time does. That's what nights like these celebrate. That's what some current Dolphins, maybe a Zach Thomas or a Jason Taylor or a Sam Madison/Patrick Surtain combo, should hope to experience. On nights like these, it doesn't matter that the Dolphins went only 8-8 in that 1991 season.

What lingers are relationships. Relationships between players and fans, who can remember where they were when so-and-so did this or that. Relationships between the players themselves.

They are 42 (Clayton) and 44 (Duper), old enough to actually seem old school when speaking at the pregame press box ceremony about modern-day end zone celebrations, like New Orleans' Joe Horn pulling a cellphone out of a goalpost Sunday.

"Clayton likes it," Duper quipped.

"It's getting more and more animated," Clayton said. "You never see guys when I played do that. Spin the ball? [Catching], that's what we're supposed to do. And it didn't work for me, because I had to deal with the guy over here."

As in Shula.

"Clayton probably would have did it," Duper repeated.

They acted like this throughout the night, kids who never had to entirely grow up. Marino saying, "Maybe they'll listen for once," when Shula started speaking. Duper putting his finger to his lips and smiling as he leaned toward his chatty brother.

"Be quiet."

Good luck doing the same the next time you see these guys, especially if you mention this game. They didn't play, but they will sure remember it. Maybe above all others.

Copyright © 2018, CT Now