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Freddie Solomon, a former Miami Dolphin and sensation at the University of Tampa, dies at 59


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Freddie Solomon was a just a curious kid who was happy to be in the NFL.

That's how former Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese remembers Solomon, the Dolphins' second-round pick in 1975.

"He always wanted to know, 'Why this?' or 'Why that?' And he was always smiling," Griese said Monday night from his home in Jupiter.

Solomon, who built an 11-year NFL career with the Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers, died Monday in Tampa after fighting colon and liver cancer for nine months. He was 59.

Solomon had a dazzling college career as a dual-threat quarterback at the University of Tampa when black quarterbacks were a rarity. He finished 12th in the 1974 Heisman balloting, but Dolphins coach Don Shula, concerned in part by Solomon's height (5-foot-11), switched him to wide receiver.

Solomon was an exciting presence in his three seasons with the Dolphins, too, scoring touchdowns four different ways (receiving, rushing, kickoff return and punt return). In a 1976 game against Buffalo, he caught a 53-yard touchdown pass, ran 59 yards for another touchdown and returned a punt 79 yards for a third touchdown.

Griese appreciated Solomon's aptitude for the game and his friendly demeanor.

"He learned very fast. He was a quick study," Griese said. "He would always come by and first thing in the morning, he'd come over and say, 'How you doing? Not to talk football - he just wanted to come around and enjoy being part of the family."

But the Dolphins missed the playoffs in his three seasons and sought to improve the running game in 1978. They traded Solomon, safety Vern Roberson and their first- and fifth-round picks to San Francisco for running back Delvin Williams.

Solomon established himself as a star in San Francisco, where he paired with Joe Montana and Dwight Clark to help the 49ers win two Super Bowls, including one against the Dolphins in January 1985.

Solomon's best season was in 1981, when he caught 59 passes for 969 yards and eight touchdowns, with a long of 93. For his career, he caught 371 passes for 5,846 yards, rushed for 519 yards, gained 8,673 kick-return yards and scored 57 touchdowns.

On "The Catch," Clark's legendary touchdown reception against Dallas in the 1982 NFC Championship Game, Solomon was the intended receiver but slipped while running his route.

Clark told The Tampa Tribune that Solomon's kindness and leadership helped him establish his pro career.

"He helped me when he didn't really have to,' Clark said. "But as I came to understand, that's how he has always been with everybody. He has led an amazing life.'

After his career ended in 1985, Solomon returned to Tampa and worked for two decades in community relations with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, serving as a coach and mentor for troubled youths.

Solomon was born in Sumter, S.C. His survivors include his wife of 33 years, the former Delilah (Dee) Jeffers

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