Absence of Jensen is taken to heart

His locker was moved near the door in recent years, and so reporters would file past it on their way in the Dolphins` locker room. Pro athletes can make you feel in the way. No time. No desire. No comment.

Jim Jensen was never like that. He would talk to entering reporters like he would to anyone. He figured he wasn`t giving up anything of himself by doing so. And if there was an article he especially liked, he wouldn`t think anything of telling the writer as much, often shaking a surprised hand and saying thanks if it applied.

After all, everyone would pat him on the back after a good effort, so he probably just figured he was returning the gesture. Good manners, you might say.And now it is that Jensen`s locker is out the door, manners should still apply. Football never seems to say good-bye. No farewell tours. No appreciation nights.

But in these hearty times the Dolphins would do well to remember someone who played with such heart during too many mediocre times. Maybe a halftime introduction. Maybe a quick wave so fans can say thanks, one more time, because if you didn`t appreciate Jensen there`s something missing about this whole sports thing for you.


By now, you know his story, an 11th-round pick from Boston College, a quarterback no less, who was so nervous and so confused and so intent on reading defenses properly that, once, he got thinking way ahead of himself and instead of calling the play in a practice huddle, he said, ``Set, hut-one...``

He laughs about that now. There is disappointment, but no bitterness or anger about being passed over when roster spots have opened, as three did this week. And while he notes he can long-snap, and wouldn`t mind doing this specialist`s job for another team, he also says he`s ready to get on with his life.

``Everybody has their glory days,`` he said. ``The years move on and it`s time for someone else to have their glory days.``

In his, he was a helmeted Scrabble blank for the Dolphins, fitting in whatever position they wanted him. Quarterback. Tight end. Receiver. Fullback. Kickoff and kick returns, punt and punt returns.

How key did he make himself? Here`s a story. Bill Arnsparger, in a moment of verbal lucidity, confided in his first summer at the University of Florida that he had just talked with his former LSU quarterback, Jeff Wickersham, whom the Dolphins had drafted.

``I asked him who his competition was and he said Jensen,`` Arnsparger said. ``I didn`t have the heart to tell him he might as well pack his bags.``


Now, just shy of 34, it was Jensen who packed his bags. Age happens. He`s already settling into the life of a former Dolphin.

Last Sunday, he went down to Key West with the likes of Mike Kozlowski, Bob Brudzinski and Paul Lankford for some fishing and charity softball games. On the way back, he stopped at Marathon to watch the Dolphins game.

``It`s great to see `em playing like this,`` he said of his undefeated former teammates. ``I wish I was just part of it.``

He`ll watch again today. He isn`t sure what kind of work he`ll get into now. There`s no hurry. He has deferred contract money coming through `95, and he doesn`t mind spending time with his family, including son Jake (2 1/2), daughter Bianca (1) and a child to be named in June.

He has clipped articles to show the children his career. But none of them can capture how South Florida, which appreciates the regular guy, embraced him on the football field for all the same reasons it does Grant Long on the basketball court right now.

No doubt these fans would like to say good-bye for 11 years of Sundays.

But it would figure in the football life and good times of Jim Jensen that he would just drift away quietly, without anything official, because he came in without so much as a hello.