MIAMI — Don Shula, who won the most games of any NFL coach and led the Miami Dolphins to the only perfect season in league history, died Monday at his home, the team said. He was 90.
“Don Shula was the patriarch of the Miami Dolphins for 50 years,” the Dolphins said in a statement. “He brought the winning edge to our franchise and put the Dolphins and the city of Miami in the national sports scene.”
Born Jan. 4, 1930, in Grand River, Ohio, Shula was raised in Painesville, Ohio. He played running back at John Carroll University in Cleveland and cornerback in the pros for seven seasons with Cleveland, Baltimore and Washington.
He entered coaching as an assistant at Virginia in 1958.
Shula became the youngest head coach in NFL history when the Baltimore Colts hired him in 1963 at age 33.
During his 26 seasons in Miami, Shula became an institution and looked the part, with a jutting jaw and glare that intimidated 150-pound sports writers and 300-pound linemen alike. His name adorns an expressway, an athletic club and a steakhouse chain.
Shula became the only coach to guide an NFL team through a perfect season when the 1972 Dolphins went 17-0. They won the Super Bowl again the following season, finishing 15-2.
Shula appeared in six Super Bowls and reached the playoffs in four decades. He coached three Hall of Fame quarterbacks: Johnny Unitas, Bob Griese and Dan Marino.
Shula retired following the 1995 season with 347 wins, 173 losses and six ties, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997.
Shula was about more than winning. He supported many charities, and the Don Shula Foundation, formed primarily to assist breast cancer research, was established as a tribute to his late wife, Dorothy.
They were married for 32 years and raised five children before she died in 1991. Shula married Mary Anne Stephens during a bye week in 1993.
His oldest son, David, coached the Cincinnati Bengals from 1992-96. When Cincinnati played Miami in 1994, it marked the first time in professional sports that a father and son faced each other as head coaches.
Don won, 23-7.
Another son, Mike, is a longtime NFL assistant coach and was head coach at Alabama in 2003-06.
Shula spent more than 20 years on the powerful NFL Competition Committee, which evaluates playing rules as well as regulations designed to improve safety.
“If I’m remembered for anything, I hope it’s for playing within the rules,” Shula once said. “I also hope it will be said that my teams showed class and dignity in victory or defeat.”