By David Dwork

Follow CBSMIAMI.COM: Facebook | Twitter

DAVIE (CBSMiami) – During the Miami Dolphins five-plus decades of existence in the NFL there have been several iconic players that wore the aqua and orange.

Names like Larry Csonka, Dan Marino and Bob Griese instantly come to mind.

Those are the only players to have their numbers retired by the Dolphins, and all three are in the Hall of Fame.

The next name that people associate with the Dolphins is Don Shula, the NFL’s winningest head coach of all time.

So Miami has a few offensive players to choose from when thinking of the best ever, but what about on defense?

Do the Dolphins have a face of the franchise’s all-time defensive team?

You bet they do, and his name is Jason Taylor.

Sure, Miami has had great defensive players like Nick Buoniconti, Dick Anderson, Zach Thomas and Manny Fernandez over the years, but Taylor was in a league of his own.

The NFL certainly took notice as last week it was announced that Taylor was a first ballot Hall of Famer.

He’ll be inducted into the Canton, Ohio shrine later this summer.

“It’s the pinnacle of what we do in professional football,” said Taylor. “I can’t be more elated to be in the Hall of Fame with the other nine Miami Dolphins who are there.”

Taylor was quick to mention his mentor and one of his best friends when talking about the Dolphins in the hall.

“One of my best friends and mentor for so many years, and a guy I look up to even this day,” Taylor said of Marino. “I’m not on Dan’s level but I’m a Hall of Famer like Dan Marino and that just blows my mind.”

The only Dolphins defensive player in the Hall of Fame is Buoniconti, and a big chunk of his career success came with the then-Boston Patriots.  He retired in 1976 and was inducted in 2001.

As impressive as it is to be a first ballot Hall of Famer, it’s incredibly rare for defensive linemen and Taylor knows this all too well.

“I think the other defensive ends to go in on the first ballot were Bruce Smith and Reggie White,” he said. “I mean, Bruce Smith, Reggie White and then Jason Taylor. I just never put myself in their class.”

Taylor played all but two of his 15-year career with the Dolphins, winning Defensive Player of the Year in 2006.

He retired in 2011 with 139½ sacks, 29 fumble recoveries and eight interceptions.

The 29 fumble recoveries are tied for most all time with Jim Marshall.  He ranks second all-time in forced fumbles with 48 and is the NFL’s leader with six fumble return touchdowns and three interceptions returned for a touchdown by a defensive lineman.

“I really wasn’t worried about it,” he said of eventually being inducted into the Hall of Fame. “I thought that it would happen one day, maybe. That it probably should happen based on the numbers and where I finished in the overall list of sacks and game changing plays.”

Taylor’s career ended with him being carried off the field at then-Sun Life Stadium by his Dolphins teammates.

One teammate that wasn’t there that day was Zach Thomas.  Taylor and Thomas played together for eleven years in Miami, but the bond between the two goes far beyond the football field.

Jason’s wife Katina is Thomas’ sister. The two also share the same birthday, though Thomas is one year older.

“There’s a handful of guys that I played with that are elite stats as far as players, people, competitors, teammates and Zach Thomas is number one on that list,” Taylor said. “He made everybody that played with him better. To me, is he a Hall of Famer? Absolutely. Without Zach there’s no way in the world I’m standing here right now.”

Perhaps Thomas will be the next former Dolphins defensive star to get the Hall of Fame nod but for now, its Taylor’s time.