Training camp turned into summer camp at a recent Miami Dolphin practice as several players gathered at the water cooler, like kids around an open fire hydrant, filled their helmets with water and began splashing coaches and teammates. When the fun was over, Richmond Webb, the Dolphins' left tackle and the chief instigator of the water light, had hit more targets than quarterbacks Dan Marino and Bernie Kosar combined. One man, though, remained dry: defensive line coach Mean Joe Greene. So just before Greene reached the safety of the locker room, Webb and Keith Sims, a left guard, double-teamed the 47-year-old Hall of Famer. When they inadvertently knocked Greene to the ground, both promptly—and prudently—fled the scene, presumably to find more victims.
Though Webb usually spends his time making life unpleasant for opposing defensive ends rather than retired defensive tackles, the result is often similar. In keeping pass rushers at bay with his long arms and by quickly positioning his 6'6", 302-pound body in their path, Webb wins most battles with defensive players who try to run wind sprints into Miami quarterbacks.
As Marino's blind side bodyguard, Webb is feeling additional pressure this season because the veteran quarterback is recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, which he suffered in a game last October. Webb has been Marino's primary protector since being drafted in the first round out of Texas A&M in 1990. As a rookie Webb did not miss a single snap during the regular season or in the playoffs, playing all 1,028 offensive downs; he was judged accountable for only two sacks, and he was flagged for only one holding call; he became the first rookie offensive tackle to make the Pro Bowl; and he gained recognition throughout the league for neutralizing Bruce Smith in three games the Dolphins played against the Buffalo Bills. Smith has averaged nearly a sack per game in the full seasons that he has played since Webb entered the league. But Webb has held Smith to only 4.5 sacks in eight career meetings.
"After that first year, expectations were high, but I've been holding up pretty well," says Webb, who has played in the Pro Bowl each of his four NFL seasons. In July he became the highest-paid offensive lineman in the game when he signed a three-year contract extension that will pay him an average of $2.7 million per season.
"From management's point of view, it's the best money they've ever spent," says right tackle Ron Heller. "They recognize that in order to win a Super Bowl we need Dan Marino healthy. And we need the best tackle in the game out there to keep him healthy. In that regard Richmond's priceless."
With his raise the aptly named Richmond Jewel Webb ("Jewel is my father's middle name," he explains. "It's my two brothers' and my sister's middle name as well") plans on buying his parents a new house back in Dallas. "The rest of the money is in safe investments," he says.
He made a safe investment of an another sort in May 1993 when he finished his degree, in industrial distribution, at Texas A&M.
"If you don't have a degree, you are very limited in what you can do after football," he says, sounding very much like the class president and salutatorian that he was at Dallas's Franklin D. Roosevelt High. "The NFL is like an amusement park. You go in, ride the merry-go-round, have fun and then, sooner or later, it will be over; so you leave. Right now, I'm enjoying the ride."