Dolphins fan profile: Autumn and Tavis Willingham

Autumn and Tavis Willingham pose outside the Pro-Football Hall of Fame - image by Brian Miller
Autumn and Tavis Willingham pose outside the Pro-Football Hall of Fame - image by Brian Miller /
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When it comes to Miami Dolphins fans there are three adjectives that stand out when describing them. Passionate, dedicated, and committed. Three weeks ago I attended the Jason Taylor Hall of Fame induction ceremony and met two fans who epitomize those three adjectives.

Arriving early on that Saturday I had plenty of opportunity to hang around the exterior of the Hall of Fame. My two brothers and I shared stories of Jason Taylor, laughed at the people getting chased out of areas they were not supposed to be in and enjoyed the over-priced beer. As I looked around the area it was clear that Taylor was well represented by Miami Dolphins fans.

As a hack-writer-wannabe-journalist I decided to venture forth and meet some of those fans. Talk with them and get some pictures for future articles. That is where I met father and daughter duo Tavis and Autumn Willingham.

Their story is not much different than many other Dolphins fans outside of the Miami area but it is still unique. Like so many of us their story starts with family and ends with the Miami Dolphins.

The two are not from Miami but live instead in the Northeast. Not quite in Patriots country but more in Redskins, Baltimore Colts, and Steeler country. If I had to guess, I would say that it started with dear old dad. So I asked them.

How did you become a Miami Dolphins fan?

"Tavis This is something that I have been asked many times. As I got older it did make me think how it actually happened. I grew up in Western Maryland. In an area full of Redskin, Colt, and Steeler fans. I was born in 1967 and was a young boy in the Seventies. There are many reasons why I fell for the Dolphins. Several in particular. I blame it on Sears, McDonalds, and rebellious youth. Sears. There were very few stores in Washington County MD in the seventies. We frequented Sears many times. I would see the toboggan hats with all the different (colors) many times. Burgundy, Blue, and Black and Gold. But I also saw another Aqua and Orange. I wasn’t even sure I knew what Aqua was at that time. But I remember the colors of those hats. Keep in mind in January 1973 when the Dolphins Won their First Super Bowl I was all of 5 ½ years old. McDonalds. I was 10 in the Summary of 1977. And in that year McDonalds published a History of the Super Bowl. Three Volumes. I only ever got to collect Volume 2. Featuring Super Bowls V through VIII. Well as you know the Dolphins were in VI, VII, & VIII. So it had the Dolphins all throughout the 23 page booklet. I somehow got Three copies and I read them over and over. It was full of what I loved most. That being the statistics. There obviously was no internet source to look up info like there is  today. I still have those booklets with me today. Rebellion. All of my friends liked the local teams. In the 5th Grade, 1977-1978 we got to buy posters through the school of sports stars and teams. I, of course, picked the Dolphins. And when that poster came in and we all looked at what everyone had picked, it was the one time that all of the others boys said, “wow I don’t like the Dolphins, but that is the coolest poster”. I still have that poster today. I was also lucky enough to go to a game in Baltimore in 1982. I saw them beat the Colts at the old Memorial Stadium. While my Father was never a fan of one team or the other. He knew I loved the Dolphins so much and took me to see them.  I was hooked. The Dolphins of the 70s and 80s were my team! And have been ever since."

Rebellious youth.  You have to love the passion that kids find in themselves. Instead of following along with the other kids some find a way to stick out. As is so many times the case however we tend to follow our parents when it comes to the love of a sports franchise.

"Autumn: I have been a Dolphins fan since birth, I owe it all to my dad he is a fan that truly loves the Dolphins and the sport. He has great knowledge of the history of the Dolphins and football as a whole. To me loving the Dolphins and spending Sundays watching football is just a way of life. As I got older I came to understand more about the sport and the Dolphins organization allowing me to really understand what my dad had loved about the team for many years before and feel the same way myself. I’ll always enjoy watching and following Miami Dolphins football but it will always be special to me for the bond it allows me and my father to have."