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South Florida Remembers Coach Shula And His Miami Dolphins Legacy

Al Diaz
Miami Herald
Don Shula with a player during a halftime ceremony celebrating the undefeated 1972 team at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens in 2019.

South Floridians are mourning the loss of former Miami Dolphins Coach Don Shula.

The team confirmed on Twitter that he passed away Monday morning. He was 90.

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Shula holds the record for the most victories in NFL history. He led the Dolphins to two Super Bowl wins over 26 seasons and a perfect season in 1972.

E. Brian Lane wrote to WLRN on Facebook about his memory of Shula:

“I was lucky enough to meet Coach Shula in Baltimore at a pre-season game when they were trying to get a team back there. He signed an auto, shook my hand. I told him I had traveled from Rocky Mount, N.C. to see MY Dolphins. He smiled and slapped me on the back."

Shula’s presence was also felt in smaller football fields.

In the early 2000s, he attended Friday night football games at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale to cheer on his grandson Chris Shula.

“You would start to see the crowd literally start to part. It looked like the parting of the Red Sea,” said Joe Donzelli, a St. Thomas alum and currently a spokesperson for Nova Southeastern University. “Then you could see it was Coach Shula coming through to sit in the stands.”

Donzelli said Shula would interact with people at the games like anybody else.

“He just had a way about him,” Donzelli recalled. “When you talked with him, he made you feel like he’s known you for his whole life."

For Sunday Phillips, watching the Dolphins was a family tradition. As a kid, her family would get together to watch clips and replays on a movie projector.

“Sports in our house was priceless moments,” said Phillips, a Miami native living in Fort Lauderdale. 

When her family moved to South Carolina, Phillips said they remained loyal to the Dolphins. Her mom would hang Dolphins T-shirts on their mailbox during game days.

“I'm saddened. Thank you Coach Shula for some wonderful memories,” she said.