MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Don Shula, longtime Miami Dolphins coach and architect of the 1972 Dolphins perfect season, died at his South Florida home Monday morning at the age of 90.
CBS4 Sports Director Jim Berry spoke to Miami Dolphins Senior Vice President of Special Projects and Alumni Relations Nat Moore who also played for Shula and the Miami Dolphins and cared deeply for him.
“He was like a second father,” recalled Moore. “You know, he’s the guy that in 1974 when I was drafted, saw something in me, changed my position and basically just gave me some guidance on how to be mentally tough as well as physically tough. And throughout my entire 13 years of playing for him and then throughout my life, he’s always been there. He’s that kind of guy. You know, the guy that somehow or another got more out of you than you thought you had to give.”
Moore says Shula was a guy who always practiced what he preached.
“He was very simple. He was that guy that he didn’t ask you to do too many things he wouldn’t do. Even when we used to hate running gases, he would run a couple of them himself. But even more so off the field, he was that guy in the community that was the first to write the check. United Way would come in each and every year before anybody wrote a check, he would write a check. I mean, you know, when you look at the legacy of South Florida and the amount of guys that stayed here, once their career was over, no matter where they came from, and became intricate parts of this community, it was because of a guy like Don Shula, because of a guy that taught you while you were playing to embrace the community where you made friends, you built relationships, and then you’re successful off the field as well as on the field,” said Moore.
When it came to family, Moore says nothing was more important to Shula.
“I don’t think there’s anything more important than his family to him and, you know, somehow or another, some way he still found time for his family. I mean, you know, in the old days coaches stayed in meetings and at the training camp, you know, 14-15 hours a day, but during the offseason, you could see how much time he spent with Michael and David and Annie and the whole family, you know, they were, you know, weekends when the game was over with, you know, he somehow another found that balance that mix to be able to be everything to his family, but also to be the winningest coach in football history because he left no stone unturned trying to find ways to win.”
WATCH: Nat Moore Reflect and Remember Don Shula
So what made Shula the winningest coach in football history?
“I think his ability to adapt, his ability to change with the athlete, you know, when Bob Griese and Larry Czonka and etc, were there, we had this big strong offensive line, we ran the football, we controlled of football, we kept our defense off the field, we won championships, and then when Dan Marino and Mark Duper and Mark Clayton and those guys came along we had this high powered offense where he switched and went to that. And once again, we went through the league as well as one of the best teams in NFL football. So his ability to adapt his ability to look at the talent that the team possess, and adapt that philosophy to those guys was critical,” recalled Moore.
Moore recalls Shula had a deadpan sense of humor but says he was just a great man.
“A guy who signified success, dignity, integrity, a guy that basically if you were willing to put forth effort, he would he would help you become better than you thought you could be.”
For Shula, winning was always important but his team had to win the right way. He was a rule maker, not a rule breaker.
“He didn’t believe in and cutting corners. He believed in hard work and dedication. And I remember playing the Patriots up there in the snowplow incident and I’ve never seen a man so livid at the officials and officials are like, ‘well, what can we do? We can’t get them to come back out and put snow back in.’ But you know, he’s just one of those guys that believes in the rules. As you know, he served on the Rules Committee for many, many years, and he was a part of not only developing the game and being the winningest his coach, but he was also a guy that helped come up with the rules of today’s game.”