NFL Legend Don Shula Embodied Greatness
Don Shula coached the only perfect season in NFL history with the 1972 Miami Dolphins and is the winningest coach in league history.
The legendary coach died on May 4, 2020, at the age of 90. He was one of football's all-time greats and made a tremendous impact on the game.
He will never be forgotten.
It All Started in Ohio
Don Shula was born on Jan. 4, 1930, in Grand River, Ohio, and played college football at John Carroll University in Cleveland.
The Cleveland Browns drafted Shula in the ninth round of the 1951 NFL draft, and Shula became one of two rookies on coach Paul Brown’s 1951 Browns team.
In 1953, Shula joined the Baltimore Colts as part of a 15-player trade. He played cornerback for the Colts for four seasons, then the Washington Redskins in 1957.
Overall, Shula played in 73 NFL games as a player. He made 60 starts and finished his career with 20 interceptions.
He Joined the Coaching Ranks in 1958
After his NFL playing days, Shula coached as a college assistant at Virginia, Iowa State and Kentucky.
He returned to pro football in 1960 as the Detroit Lions defensive coordinator.
Shula Stayed a While in the NFL
Don Shula coached 33 years in the NFL.
He led the Baltimore Colts for seven years and the Miami Dolphins for 26 years.
A Remarkable Coaching Record
In 490 games, Shula amassed a 328-156-6 record, good for a .677 winning percentage.
More Wins Than Anyone in Pro Football History
Shula is alone atop the NFL coaching leaderboard with 328 wins.
The next closest coach is George Halas with 318 wins. The closest active NFL coach is Bill Belichick with 273 wins at No. 3.
Here the other coaches in the top 10 on the all-time NFL coaching wins list.
4. Tom Landry — 250
5. Curly Lambeau — 226
6. Paul Brown — 213
7. Andy Reid — 207
8. Marty Schottenheimer — 200
9. Chuck Noll — 193
10. Dan Reeves — 190
Shula Started Young
Don Shula started his head coaching career with the Baltimore Colts in 1963.
Shula replaced Weeb Ewanks, who led the Colts to a 7-7 record in 1962.
At 33, the rookie Shula was the then-youngest head coach in NFL history.
He Spent Seven Years in Baltimore
Shula coached in Baltimore for seven seasons until 1969.
He Had a .755 Winning Percentage With the Colts
Shula went 71-23-4 in 98 regular-season games with the Colts for a .755 winning percentage.
Players Loved Him
He was a players' coach. With his NFL experience, Shula had a great understanding of the game, and players loved playing for him.
He Went to Miami in 1970
Shula joined the Miami Dolphins in 1970, replacing head coach George Wilson, who led the Dolphins to a 3-10-1 record in the 1969 season
Shula coached the Dolphins for 26 seasons, retiring in 1995 at the age of 65.
He Coached the Dolphins for 26 Seasons
Shula went 257-133-2 in 392 regular-season games with the Dolphins for a .659 winning percentage.
He Made NFL History in Miami
Shula led the Dolphins to back-to-back Super Bowl titles in 1972 and 1973.
Perfection in 1972
The Dolphins beat the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Jan. 14, 1973, and finished the season with a perfect 17-0 record — the first and still the only NFL team to go undefeated.
Repeat Champions in 1973
Shula's Dolphins beat the Minnesota Vikings 24-7 in Super Bowl VIII at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas, on Jan. 13, 1974, to repeat as champions.
36 Playoff Games
Shula coached 36 playoff games and had a 19-17 postseason record, a .528 winning percentage.
Shula went 2-3 (.400) in five playoff games with the Colts and went 17-14 (.548) in 31 playoff games with the Dolphins.
Shula led the Colts to the 1964 NFL championship game and Super Bowl III. They lost both.
Shula led the Dolphins to Super Bowl XIX, and they also lost.
A Four-Time Coach of the Year
Shula was NFL Coach of the Year four times — in 1964, 1967, 1968 and 1972.
He Coached a Lot of Hall of Famers
Shula coached 14 Hall of Fame players with the Colts (6) and Dolphins (8).
Raymond Berry (1955-1967)
Art Donovan (1953-1961)
Ted Hendricks (1969-1973)
John Mackey (1963-1971)
Gino Marchetti (1953-1964, 1966)
Lenny Moore (1956-1967)
Jim Parker (1957-1967)
Johnny Unitas (1956-1972)
Nick Buoniconti (1969-1974, 1976)
Larry Csonka (1968-1974, 1979)
Bob Griese (1967-1980)
Jim Langer (1970-1979)
Larry Little (1969-1980)
Dan Marino (1983-1999)
Dwight Stephenson (1980-1987)
Paul Warfield (1970-1974)
The Ultimate Winner
Don Shula passed George Halas for the most wins in NFL history in 1993, and Sports Illustrated named Shula the SI Sportsman of the Year.
Immortalized in Canton
Shula was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997.
Success Beyond the Gridiron
Shula was just as successful in retirement as he was on the football field.
He owned a chain of steakhouses called Shula’s Restaurants that started in South Florida and were expanded into several other states. The chain had 22 restaurants across the United States, including in Shula’s home state of Ohio.
In Ohio, Shula's home state, he started an endowment in his name at his alma mater, John Carroll University. Shula studied philosophy as an undergraduate, and The Don Shula Chair in Philosophy supports the university’s philosophy department by presenting programs to philosophers and the general public.
A Remarkable Life
Shula created an amazing legacy in his 90 years.
He set the standard for leadership in the NFL and embodied greatness.
Related:Where Are the 1972 Miami Dolphins Now?