Football star, former Miami Laker Don Shula dies
Monday, May 4, 2020
Don Shula, the winningest coach in NFL history whose perfect season brought the Miami Dolphins one of their two Super Bowl championships, died Monday at his Miami home. He was 90.
Shula was a Miami Lakes resident during many of his years coaching the Dolphins.
A member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Shula was in the inaugural class of inductees into the Miami Lakes Sports Hall of Fame.
“[Coach Shula] lived in Miami Lakes in the ‘70s and ‘80s, leaving a positive impact in our community that is still felt today,” Miami Lakes Mayor Manny Cid said on Facebook.
Miami Lakes was developed by The Graham Companies from the Graham family’s dairy farm.
In the late 1980s, Shula and the Grahams entered into a hospitality partnership.
A golf course, two restaurants, a hotel, spa and athletic club in town are all named for him.
At that time, Shula lived in the Loch Lomond community which hugs the golf course; his house was on the 16th hole.
Shula’s Steak House in Miami Lakes is the first location that grew into a chain of restaurants.
Its walls are decorated with photographs and memorabilia from Shula’s career and championship team and is a destination for sports fans.
Shula’s former team called him “the patriarch of the Miami Dolphins for 50 years. He brought the winning edge to our franchise and put the Dolphins and the city of Miami in the national sports scene,” the Dolphins said on Twitter.
A statue of Shula stands in front of the team’s home field at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.
Shula was also remembered by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who called him “one of the greatest coaches” who “made an extraordinarily positive impact on so many lives.
Coach Shula lived an unparalleled football life.
“As a player, Hall of Fame coach, and long-time member and co-chair of the NFL Competition Committee, he was a remarkable teacher and mentor who for decades inspired excellence and exemplified integrity,” Goodell said.
When he lived in town, Shula was known to attend daily sunrise Mass at Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Church in Miami Lakes.
Shula was an active parishioner during the 1970s and 1980s, said Elsa Reus, director of community relations for the church.
Shula led fundraisers to help build Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic School, which opened in 1986, Reus said.
He once brought former Dolphins Quarterback Dan Marino to Mass on Easter Sunday, to the delight of church members and clergy.
"He was very loved in the community and a special part of our church," Reus said of Shula. "I'm saddened by his loss because he was a great human being."
Dave Gergely is the golf sales coordinator at Shula’s Golf Course. He met the coach 38 years ago when he was director of sports entertainment at Shula’s Steak 2 restaurant on Main Street.
A TV show, ‘The Don Shula Show,’ was filmed in the bar before fans on Monday nights, Gergely said.
It aired on WPLG-Ch. 10 before Monday Night Football games.
The restaurant also hosted the weekly Touchdown Club luncheon and local business people would pay to attend and hear special guests speak.
“Coach Shula was always the biggest draw,” Gergely said.
His namesake golf course was the original site for the
Don Shula Golf Tournament for Breast Cancer Research which began in the early ‘80s, Gergely said.
“He always picked Dan Marino and Dick Anderson to be his partners because they were the best golfers,” Gergely said.
Shula’s first wife Dorothy Shula succumbed to the disease in 1991 at age 57.
As a coach, Shula was known for his intense focus.
He won 328 regular-season games as a head coach: 71 with the Baltimore Colts, and 257 with the Dolphins. His Miami teams won back-to-back Super Bowls in the 1972 and 1973 seasons.
The 1972 win was the first and only undefeated Super Bowl year in NFL history, with the Dolphins going 17-0 on their way to the title.
But after Shula retired from the game, he could enjoy his achievements.
“He would sit and talk for hours with people,” Gergely said. “He just loved people. He was just a wonderful, dignified man.
“When people talked about the Dolphins, his big grin would be unbelievable,” Gergely said.
He last saw Shula in January at Shula’s Steak House for a birthday dinner that was hosted by former Dolphin Nat Moore.
“There were probably 25 former Dolphins there,” Gergely said, “including Mark Duper, Larry Little and Dick Anderson. [Former quarterback] Bob Griese sat with him for quite a while.”
Shula used a wheelchair during the later years of his life. After a golf tournament at Indian Creek held a year ago for the children of fallen police officers, Shula handed out the trophy for first place.
“He said, ‘If I wasn’t in this wheelchair, I’d kick all your butts!’, meaning on the golf course,” Gergely said. “He was feisty to the end.”
Gergely said of Shula, “As a golfer, he was a great coach.”
Shula is survived by his wife Mary Anne and his children Dave, Donna, Sharon, Anne and Mike.
Shown in photos from The Miami Laker files are:
NFL Hall of Fame Coach Don Shula and former Florida Gov. and former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham;
Don Shula and his wife, Mary Anne Shula;
David Shula with his father, Don Shula in the late 1980s;
Don Shula and a Graham Angus bull;
Don Shula at Shula's Steak 2 with Joe Rose, a former Dolphins tight end and longtime local broadcaster.
Staff Reporter David Snelling contributed to this report.
This story will be updated; check back later for more information.