Tony Nathan was a 6' running back for the Alabama Crimson Tide. He finished his college career with 30 touchdowns and 3,362 all-purpose yards. Miami chose him with their third round pick of the 1979 NFL Entry Draft. He wore the 22 jersey throughout his Miami career.
Nathan was primarily used as a kick and punt return man during his rookie campaign, appearing in every game. He returned 28 punts for 306 yards and an 86 yard touchdown in a week seven victory over the Buffalo Bills, 17-7. He also returned 45 kickoffs for 1,016 yards. Starting in week nine, a 27-7 victory over the Green Bay Packers, he started getting into the running back rotation, gaining 28 yards on six carries. He eventually finished the season with 68 yards on 16 carries and 213 yards and two touchdowns on 17 pass receptions. Miami finished the season with a 10-6 record, winning the AFC East. Nathan was the AP first-team All-NFL return man, leading the NFL with 15.1 yards per touch.
In 1980, Nathan started six of 16 games at running back, and continued to return punts - 23 for 178 yards. Nathan caught seven passes for 118 yards in a 21-16 week four victory over the New Orleans Saints. For the season, he posted team highs with 57 catches for 588 yards, scoring five touchdowns. He also gained a team second best 327 yards on 60 carries, scoring one touchdown. Miami finished out of contention with an 8-8 record.
Nathan missed three games in 1981, but started 11 of the 13 in which he appeared at halfback. He rushed the ball 147 times for a career and Dolphin high 782 yards, scoring five touchdowns and leading the NFL with 5.3 average yards per carry. He also caught 50 passes for 452 yards and three more touchdowns, leading the Dolphins with 1,234 yards from scrimmage and eight total touchdowns. He enjoyed his first career 100-yards rushing performance in a 24-14 week 14 victory over the New England Patriots, gaining 119 yards on 17 carries. Miami finished the season 11-4-1, winning the AFC East. In the 41-38 divisional round overtime loss to the San Diego Chargers, Nathan caught nine passes for 114 yards, scoring a touchdown on the famous hook-and-lateral play with six seconds remaining in the first half. He also rushed 14 times for 48 yards, scoring a second touchdown in the fourth quarter.
In 1982, Nathan started seven of the eight games in which he appeared. He rushed 66 times for 233 yards and a touchdown, adding 16 receptions for 114 yards. In a week one 45-28 victory over the New York Jets, he threw his first career touchdown pass, a 15 yard strike to quarterback David Woodley. Miami finished the regular season 7-2, winning three playoff games by a combined score of 76-26 to face the Washington Redskins in SBXVII. Nathan caught an additional 15 passes for 127 yards, rushing 45 times for 204 yards.
In 1983, Nathan started 12 games at halfback, appearing in all 16. He totalled a team second best 685 yards on 151 carries, scoring three touchdowns. He also caught 52 passes for 461 yards and another score, a combined total that led the Dolphins in yards from scrimmage, with 1,146. Nathan also attempted four passes that season, completing three for 46 yards. His career qb rating is 115.1. Miami won the AFC East title with a 12-4 record.
1984 would see Nathan again start in 12 of his 16 appearances at halfback. He ranked second on the team in rushing 118 times for 558 yards and a touchdown, catching 61 passes for 579 yards and two scores. Miami finished 14-2, as Dan Marino broke a lot of records that season. The Dolphins won the Divisional playoff game 31-10 over the Seahawks, and the AFC Championship, 45-28 over the Pittsburgh Steelers. In the Steelers game, Nathan rushed 19 times for 64 yards and a touchdown, caught eight passes for 114 yards, and completed 1-of-1 passes for 14 yards.
1985 may have been Nathan's best all-around season, as he gained a career high 1,318 yards from scrimmage. He rushed 143 times for 667 yards and five touchdowns, also catching 72 passes for 651 yards and another score. In a 30-26 week four victory over the Denver Broncos, Nathan rushed 14 times for 38 yards, catching 10 passes for 120. Miami won the division with a 12-4 record. In the first round of the playoffs, a 24-21 victory over the Cleveland Browns, Nathan gained 101 yards on 10 catches, also rushing seven times for 21 yards.
In 1986, Nathan appeared in every game off the bench, gaining 203 yards on 27 carries and catching 48 passes for 457 yards and two touchdowns. Miami finished the season 8-8, missing the playoffs for the first time since 1980.
Nathan finished his NFL career in 1987, appearing in six games off the bench, carrying the ball four times for 20 yards and catching 10 passes for 77 yards. Miami posted a 7-5 "Non-replacement" player record, totalling an 8-7 overall record.
Over nine seasons in the Dolphins backfield, Nathan started 63 of his 123 games, gaining 3,543 yards on 732 carries, scoring 16 touchdowns. Additionally, he caught 383 passes for 3,592 yards and 16 touchdowns. After retiring, he joined Miami's coaching staff as an assistant to Don Shula, later serving as the teams running back coach. Later still, he coached the running backs under Tony Dungy for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He has since coached for FIU, the Baltimore Ravens, and the San Francisco 49ers.