NAPLES (CBSMiami) — Former Miami Dolphins quarterback Earl Morrall has passed away.
Morrall, 79, died Friday morning in Naples.
“Earl was one of the greatest people you can meet,” former teammate Larry Little said. ” I’ve never seen Earl have a bad day, he always had a smile on his face, he got along with everyone and he’s really gonna be missed.”
Morrall was Bob Griese’s backup with the Miami Dolphins but when Griese suffered an injury in 1972, he helped the Perfect Season team to remain that way. That is until Griese replaced him in the AFC Championship Game and went on to win the Super Bowl.
The Dolphins 17-0 record still stands alone today.
Morrall was named AFC Player of the Year, and won the inaugural NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award.
He played 21 seasons in the NFL from 1956-76.
The former Michigan State Spartans quarterback also replaced legendary Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas after an injury in 1968, leading the Colts to a 13-1 record.
Morrall played in 255 games, completing 1,379 passes for 20,809 yards and 161 touchdowns and posted a career 74.1 quarterback rating in a career that spanned 21 years.
After his football career, Morrall became the quarterback coach at the University of Miami n 1979. There he worked with Jim Kelly, Bernie Kosar and Vinny Testaverde.
Morrall, who lived in Davie for years after leaving the Dolphins, was elected to the Davie city council in 1989 and eventually became mayor. The town named a pass after him.
He was also inducted into the 2012 Dolphins’ Walk of Fame at the Joe Robbie Alumni Plaza at Sun Life Stadium.
The Walk of Fame is designed to honor the alumni, coaches and fans who have made significant contributions during the team’s history.
In recent years Morrall had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and his health had been deteriorating.
“I knew the time was coming because he was really ill,” said Little. “I knew it wasn’t going to be long before it happened, but that’s life and I’m going to miss him.”
Stephen Ross released this statement: “The Miami Dolphins’ family is deeply saddened by the passing of Earl Morrall today. Earl not only left an indelible mark in Dolphins history with his play on the field during the Perfect Season Super Bowl VII Championship team, but was extremely active in the community as a player and Dolphins alumnus. He will be greatly missed. Our prayers and thoughts are with his wife Jane, family and friends during this time.”
Don Shula added: “I was very saddened to learn about Earl’s passing. He was someone who was as good a person as he was a player. When I think about Earl, what stands out the most is what a competitor he was on the field and how special he was off it.
All Earl ever did was win games for me, whether it was as a starter or coming off the bench. What I remember the most, of course, is what he did in 1972 when he replaced Bob Griese after Bob’s injury and kept our Perfect Season going until Bob returned in the playoffs. But Earl won a lot of games for me in Baltimore as well. And he did it in such a humble way — he was a great team player who would do whatever was asked of him. And he was an outstanding leader who inspired confidence in his teammates.
Mary Anne and I want to express our condolences to his wife, Jane, and the rest of their family. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.”
And Tim Robbie said in a press release: “Our family was saddened to hear of Earl’s passing. He was a prominent member of our Super Bowl winning teams of the early 1970s. He was not only a great player and a great leader, but he also was a wonderful and caring man. He will be sorely missed by the entire Dolphin family.”