Miami Dolphins legend Don Shula passed away today at the age of 90.
The Man Behind the Perfect Season
Shula is most known for leading the undefeated Dolphins to a Super Bowl victory in 1972 to complete the NFL’s only perfect season in its 100-year history. He went on to coach Miami for 26 seasons and win two Super Bowls. He would later be inducted to the NFL Hall of Fame in 1997.
The Miami Dolphins released an official statement about the late coach:
Various players, coaches, NFL personnel and fans have taken to Twitter to express memories, prayers and condolences. Their tributes can be found here.
Shula: The Winningest Coach in NFL History
Out of 33 years as a head coach in the NFL, Shula only suffered two losing seasons. Furthermore, he is the winningest coach in the NFL all-time with 328 regular-season wins. Additionally, he holds 19 post-season victories, to bump him up to 347 total NFL wins.
Shula began his coaching career with the Baltimore Colts in 1963 after being drafted out of John Carroll University and playing defensive back for the Cleveland Browns, Colts and Washington Redskins from 1951-57. He finished 71-23-4 and won a NFL Championship with the Colts in 1968 before leaving the team for Miami after the 1969 season.
In addition to the perfect season and Super Bowls, Shula also led the Dolphins to five AFC Championships. He is regarded as the man who came in and turned Miami’s organization around and into a winning culture by establishing a winning mentality.
Shula’s Rocky Road to the Pros
Shula’s drive to play football started as a young kid in Ohio. He ended up forging his parents’ signatures to play in high school after his mother forbid him to play it after multiple injuries as a child. Shula was a starter as a halfback within weeks of walking on to the team.
He didn’t receive a college scholarship until the summer before he’d be a freshman. The scholarship was only awarded for one season, but later extended to his entire career after his freshman year performance sky-rocketed beyond his coaches’ expectations.
Shula graduated in 1951 with a sociology major and mathematics and was offered a teaching job right out of school. However, he was also drafted in the ninth round by the Browns that same year and opted to become a professional football player. Despite his short playing career, he was involved with the NFL for 69 years.
Shula, 1972 Team Honored in 2019
The Miami Dolphins honored Shula in Miami’s 2019 home finale win against the Cincinnati Bengals. He was accompanied by members of the 1972 undefeated team who were honored as the best team in NFL history after winning the category during the “NFL’s Greatest” campaign that took a look back at the league’s 100-year history.
More information on Shula’s childhood, NFL career and life outside of the NFL can be found here. FPC Dolphins promises it is worth the read.