MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The winningest head coach in National Football League history and a South Florida icon for half a century, Don Shula has passed away at the age of 90.
The Miami Dolphins are saddened to announce that Head Coach Don Shula passed away peacefully at his home this morning. pic.twitter.com/MKAtXFA4zd
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) May 4, 2020
Shula leaves behind his wife, Mary Anne, and five children; Dave, Donna, Sharon, Anne and Mike.
Shula’s children were from an earlier marriage to his first wife, Dorothy, who died of breast cancer in 1991.
Born in Grand River, Ohio in 1930, football came naturally to Shula from a young age.
His parents initially forbade him from playing due to the risk of injury, with Shula even forging his parents’ signatures on a permission slip to play in high school.
Shula would play 73 games over seven seasons in the NFL as a defensive back, finishing his career with 21 interceptions.
The Pro Football Hall of Famer first came to South Florida in 1970, when Miami Dolphins owner Joe Robbie signed Shula to become the team’s second head coach in its fifth year of existence.
Shula had spent the past seven seasons coaching the Baltimore Colts. Shula was actually the youngest head coach in NFL history when the Colts hired him in 1963 at age 33.
Despite plenty of success with the Colts, Shula’s days in Baltimore seemed numbered after a stunning loss in Super Bowl III to Joe Namath and the New York Jets. The Colts were heavy favorites heading into that game. Three years later, Shula would lead the Dolphins to Super Bowl VI.
Shula would remain Miami’s leader for the next 26 years, taking them to five Super Bowl appearances and winning back to back titles in 1972 and 1973.
In that ’72 season, Shula and the Dolphins became the only NFL team to complete a perfect season, finishing the year 17-0. They remain the only team to complete an NFL season and win a Super Bowl without suffering a loss.
Shula retired in 1995 having coached more games than anyone in NFL history.
He remains the all-time leader in wins with 347.
When asked in 1997 if he was the greatest coach in NFL history, Shula said he didn’t know how to measure that, but added, “I always thought that’s why they keep statistics and wins and losses.”
There are several ways Shula has been honored in South Florida.
A statue of Shula stands outside Hard Rock Stadium and you can always take a drive on the Don Shula Expressway.
Speaking of Hard Rock Stadium, he was added to the Miami Dolphins Honor Roll in 1996, the year after he retired.
Additionally, the annual football game between Florida International University and Florida Atlantic University is called the Shula Bowl and the winner receives a trophy called the Don Shula Award.
Shula was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997.
Shula spent much of his retirement with his wife Mary Anne, at their home in Indian Creek, Florida.
He loved to play golf and spent many hours on the golf course with former players, coaches and colleagues from the NFL.
Shula supported many charities. The Don Shula Foundation, formed primarily to assist breast cancer research, was established as a tribute to his late wife, Dorothy. They were married for 32 years and raised five children before she died in 1991. Shula married Mary Anne Stephens during a bye week in 1993.
Shula is survived by his second wife, two sons and three daughters.