Stolen autographed ’72 Dolphins helmet returned to late family’s owner

By Rachel Wold
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

A Miami Dolphins helmet, which was autographed by several team members from the 1972 undefeated season, has since been returned the late owner’s family.

In 2013, the helmet was stolen from the home of Dolphins fan John Sparrell, who passed away just a couple of months later after sustaining a massive heart attack. Just this past Father’s Day the helmet was located, and it was returned to Sparrell’s son Michael on Wednesday.

Michael shared how heartbroken his father was after the helmet was stolen.

“He was so upset,” Michael Sparrell explained, per Jenna Laine of ESPN. “He called and told our family, ‘I’m just so broken up.’ Somebody broke into my house and took my helmet.” It wasn’t just because of the stars’ names on the helmet or the significance of that Dolphins’ undefeated season that broke John Sparrell’s heart. It was because the gift came from family. Everyone pitched in to get it for him, for all those years of family reunions he organized.”

According to the report, the helmet was delivered to Michael by the Boynton Beach Police, who were accompanied by Pro Football Hall of Famer Larry Little. Little, whose signature was on the helmet, played guard with Miami from 1969-80.

The helmet was coincidentally found when police were searching a home of a burglary suspect. It took a bit of help from some local citizens to track the Sparrell family down.

Little spoke about his experience in assisting with the delivery of the helmet.

“It was really heartwarming for me to be able to [give him back the helmet] because of what happened and for him to lose his life not to long after it happened.” Little said. “It meant a great deal for me to be up here today and present him with the helmet.”

The helmet could obviously fetch quite the sizable amount at auction considering all of the big names who signed it. Though, it would appear that the helmet isn’t going anywhere due to the special circumstances involved and the precious history it holds with the Sparrell family.