nat-moore_web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

So many pro football legends converged on the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood on April 17 that one would have thought they were at an induction ceremony at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, likely the one place so many Hall of Famers would be together.

But the all-time greats were in South Florida to support one of the area’s favorite sons.

“Dwight Stephenson is the reason I’m here, plain and simple,” said Larry Little, the only native Floridian who played on the Miami Dolphins’ 1972 undefeated team. He played with Stephenson his final year in the league and considers him like a younger brother. “He is the most humble and gracious guy I know, and I would do anything to support him.”

That sentiment was echoed at the lavish affair time and again by legends such as Miami Dolphins beloved quarterback Earl Morrall (1972) and Hall of Famers such as Pittsburgh Steelers all-time great, John Stallworth and Dallas Cowboys legendary star Mel Renfro.

Others such as Houston Oilers Elvin Bethea, Lem Barney, Ken Houston and South Florida greats such as Nat Moore and Mercury Morris were all on hand.

Countless other Hall of Fame inductees and other noted players such as Mark Duper, Troy Drayton and James Pruitt showed up to support a fellow Dolphin.

They were joined by Steve Perry, president of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and other dignitaries.

Stephenson, whose name is emblazoned in the rafters at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, home of the Dolphins, was holding the Dwight Stephenson Foundation’s VIP Hall of Fame Reception Event and Hall of Fame Golf Classic April 17 and 18 to benefit charities around South Florida.

The groups benefiting from the weekend’s activities included the Urban League of Broward County, the American Diabetes Association and United Cerebral Palsy of Broward County.

Countless low-income children have benefitted from the foundation’s signature program, Dwight’s Computers for Kids which provides refurbished computers donated by local businesses.

Stephenson and his wife Dinah started the foundation in 2007 to bring together the sports and business communities in an effort to generate increased funding for charities that provide educational, health and human services to support the needs of children and families. Stephenson also owns D. Stephenson Construction Inc. of Fort Lauderdale that employs 27 workers.

The day before the charity dinner, Stephenson was at the YMCA in Weston for “Healthy Kids Day” celebrating the work of the organization and promoting an active and healthy lifestyle for youth. About 500 kids were on hand to enjoy the festivities and to hear from the former Dolphins stand-out.

Stephenson has garnered many accolades over the years, on and off the football field. His friends and others who meet him say his greatest quality is humility.

He says he got that quality from his parents. Growing up in North Carolina and Virginia in a large family, his father’s dedication and commitment, working two jobs for more than 30 years, kept him grounded, he said.

Today, it’s his wife, an attorney and his business partner, who, he says, keeps him humble. Married for 29 years, the couple has three adult children.

But Dinah Stephenson says her husband has always been humble. Only 19 when they met at the University of Alabama, she says neither fame nor fortune has changed him.

“My husband is the same today as he was when I met him when he was a sophomore in college,” she said in an interview during the fundraiser. “He has simply matured as a person. But he really is the same person.” Humility, she said, is “just his nature.”