Shula, Don

Card: ProSet 1991
Acquired:  TTM 1992, C/o The Miami Dolphins

Don Shula was a member of the newly merged Cleveland Browns a season after they joined the NFL. Playing defensive back on that stacked team, he rarely if ever saw any playing time, but still managed to make 4 interceptions his rookie season. He’d be traded to the Baltimore Colts in one of the largest player trades of all time getting 4 seasons in with the team continuing his strong play making 14 interceptions. In 1957, Don played his final season with the Washington Redskins making 3 more interceptions.

G  73       Tac  N/a       Sac N/a      Fum   4
Int 21      Yds  267     Avg 12.7     Td 0    Lg 35

This would not end Don Shula’s football career as he would make the transition into coaching. After a small stint in college at the University of Virginia,  Don was back in the pro ranks as an assistant for the Detroit Lions from 1960-1962 (defensive coordinator). He was then rewarded with the head coaching job in Baltimore in 1963 at the age of 33, which was the youngest coach in the league at the time. Don would spend the next 7 seasons there winning 71 contests but losing two championships (1964, and SuperBowl III).

In 1970 the Miami Dolphins signed Don as their head coach and were charged with tampering forfeiting their first round choice that year. Because of the odd nature of the timing- negotiating before the AFL/NFL merger, but signing afterwards, Miami had to suffer the consequences because they were now merged leagues.  Shula would go on to become one of the ‘Big 3’ coaches (Landry, Shula and, Noll,) in the NFL’s modern era. Shula’s teams during the 70s had dominating defensive units and offensive lines supported by a ground game which allowed them to excel against their NFL counterparts. His team would reach the big game by 1971. Shula’s 1972 unit is the only team to finish undefeated in NFL history winning all its regular season games and post season contests (17-0) and in 1973 they’d return again winning this time against the Minnesota Vikings. This team was the last of Shula’s teams to win the SuperBowl but his teams would consistently remain in the playoffs. In 1983 however the team would make the transition to a passing franchise with the drafting of one player- Dan Marino. Marino guided the team to the Super Bowl in 1984 throwing a then NFL record 50 touchdown passes. Shula’s teams reached the playoffs 20 times in 33 attempts. He’d retire after the 1993 season, with a large legacy under his belt.  26 of 28 seasons of winning football in Miami, the coach with the most Super Bowl appearances (6), a 4 time coach of the year, one of two coaches in history to have over 300 wins, and the winningest coach in league history. I would get Don’s autograph through the mail courtesy of the Dolphins in 1992 right after Christmas.

Since retiring Shula has made time to occasionally attend his team’s 17-0 reunions, owns an extremely successful chain of steakhouses and has his name on a golf course and hotel in Florida. He also is involved in the Don Shula Foundation for breast cancer research. In 1997, Shula was a shoe-in for the NFL HoF.  He has also been involved in numerous presentation ceremonies over the last few years, had stadiums and highways named after him and has authored 3 books.

W 328   L 156   T 6   Pct .678