By: Jason Sarney
On the eve of a Week 4 game against the first team Don Shula coached in the NFL, the Miami Dolphins brought out the legends to honor the patriarch of this Franchise. Miami Dolphins legends, broadcasting greats, an NFL Commissioner, a Miami Archbishop, and family members spoke eloquent and moving words about the winningest coach in NFL history.
"Don Shula is the Miami Dolphins..." said owner Stephen Ross as he closed the ceremony. Prior to his words, players like Larry Csonka, Bob Griese, Bob Baumhower, John Offerdahl, Larry Little and of course Dan Marino, shared theirs.
The Dolphins organization put together a terrific tribute, and with a must win game today against that first NFL team Shula coached, the winless Colts come to Hard Rock Stadium.
Regardless of what happens today on the field, some of the best take-aways from yesterday's tribute focused on Don Shula's importance off the field. I had the opportunity to ask former Fin wide receiver, Nat Moore about his memories of Shula off the field, and here is what he told me: It was great to listen and learn.
The legend of Don Shula goes beyond his NFL record 347 victories and two Lombardi Trophies. He spent 21 years on the NFL's competition committee and as Commissioner Rodger Goodell said, "he changed the game, and made it better."
He also contributed philanthropically. In addition to supporting United Way, Shula developed the Don Shula Foundation for Breast Cancer Awareness. The Foundation was a precursor to October's Crucial Catch initiative the NFL takes such pride in, and rightfully so.
Shula was more than a football coach. He was an icon in sport, philanthropy, hospitality and community; the words used to sum up his life are, "Faith. Family. Football. Community."
One thing is certain, Coach Don Shula is a Hall of Famer in all of those areas. He coached eight Hall of Fame Players, and as Jimmy Cefalo told us all, he helped his players make the right decisions in their careers and life.
Don Shula was a coach, a mentor, a father--figure, and an inspiration to so many. His influence was evident, as Larry Csonka (arguably the toughest Miami Dolphin player ever held back tears as he spoke glowing and lovely words about his Head Coach. The Head Coach who led the 1972 Miami Dolphins to the ONLY perfect season in NFL History.
As Csonka told, when Shula took over the Miami Dolphins team..."we were the worst team in football, and four years later we were the best team ever." A "perfect" way to incapsulate the great coach ever, and arguably, one of the world's greatest human beings as well.
Thank you, Coach.