Mandich, James Michael, who was a tight end for the Miami Dolphins in 1972 when the team accomplished the only perfect season in NFL history, an entrepreneur and a famous color commentator for the Dolphins, died Tuesday at age 62. Mandich leaves behind a playbook of how to live life - with a kind heart, fighting spirit, quick humor, traditional work ethic, community charity, and love of family and friends. During football season thousands of sports fans would be "just riding around with [their] windows down," listening to a Dolphins game, and hearing that familiar voice in the wind cry out, "All right Miami!" Mandich was born July 30, 1948, in Cleveland, Ohio. Raised in Solon, Ohio, he was a star high school football and basketball player. Following high school he was recruited by Bo Schembechler to attend the University of Michigan. There he earned his B.A. in Business Administration and starred as an All-American tight end and captain. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2004. In 1970 Mandich was the Miami Dolphins' first draft pick. He played tight end for the Dolphins through 1977 and was proud to have been a member of Don Shula's "Perfect Season" team of 1972-1973. He won two Super Bowl rings with the Dolphins and played key roles in both victories. He ended his career in the 1978-1979 season the way every professional player wishes to - with a final Super Bowl ring, this time with the Pittsburgh Steelers. After retiring as a football player, Mandich managed dual careers. The first was in construction where he started as a project manager, became a partner, and served as the president of Lotspeich Company, Inc. for 25 years. The second career was in both radio and television sports broadcasting where he enjoyed extended runs as a local sports-talk favorite and an energetic game day color commentator for the Miami Dolphins. His fan base spreads across the entire state of Florida and includes sports fans, coaches, former teammates, friends, and business associates. As important as football was to Mandich, his most prized catch was his wife, Bonnie Lee Mandich. They met in 1975 and were married, and he adored her for the rest of his life. He is survived by Bonnie and their three remarkable sons, Michael, Mark, and Nicholas. Mandich is mourned, missed and loved by many. The Mandich family requests, in lieu of flowers, for donations to be made to the Sylvester Cancer Clinic in Miami, where Mandich received dedicated care. The Mandich family will hold a private memorial service on Saturday.
Published in Sun-Sentinel on Apr. 29, 2011