On July 26, 1997, Don Shula capped an illustrious career when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, following his election into the shrine on January 25, 1999, his first year of eligibility. Don Shula‘s unanimous election to the Hall was the ultimate honor in a career full of record-setting accomplishments.
Don Shula‘s record as head coach of the Dolphins (1970-95) and before that as head coach of the Baltimore Colts (1963-69) is unmatched in National Football League history. In 1995 he concluded his 33rd season as an NFL head coach and his 26th season as head coach of the Dolphins. He owns a career record of 347-173-6 (.665), including a regular season mark of 328-156-6 (.676), and is the winningest coach in NFL history. On November 14, 1993 in Philadelphia, when the Dolphins defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 19-14, Don Shula won his 325th career game, moving him past the immortal George Halas (324-151-31) and setting an NFL record for most career victories, a mark once thought to be unreachable. Don Shula‘s 328 regular season wins also is an NFL record, surpassing Halas’ former NFL mark of 318 regular season victories. Shula and Halas are the only NFL coaches to win 300 or more career games, as Don Shula recorded his 300th career win on September 22, 1991, with a 16-13 triumph over Green Bay in just his 29th year as an NFL head coach, as compared to 36 seasons for Halas to accomplish that feat.
In addition, Don Shula won Super Bowl titles in 1972 and 1973, one of only five coaches in NFL history to win consecutive Super Bowls. His 1972 team went 17-0, recording the only undefeated season in NFL annals. Don Shula has appeared in more Super Bowls (six) than any other coach, and is one of only two coaches (along with Buffalo’s Marv Levy) to reach the Super Bowl three straight seasons (1971-73). He also advanced to the Super Bowl with the Dolphins in 1982 and 1984, as well as in 1968 as head coach of the Colts.
A remarkable 20 times in 33 seasons, Don Shula‘s teams reached the playoffs. His teams won at least ten games 21 times in those 33 years, and he suffered only two losing seasons (1976, 1986) in that span. He averaged more than ten wins per season in his career (347 wins in 33 years as a head coach), and he was the youngest coach to win 100, 200 and 300 games each.
During Don Shula‘s tenure with the Dolphins, from the time he replaced George Wilson on February 18, 1970 to become the franchise’s second-ever head coach through his final season in 1995, his winning percentage of .658 (257-133-2) during that time was the best record in all of professional sports. The Dolphins either won or shared first place in the AFC East 15 times in the 26 years under Don Shula, and reached the playoffs 16 times. His ultimate achievement was the NFL’s only unbeaten, untied record of 17-0 in 1972, capped by a 14-7 win over the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII. Don Shula won a second consecutive Super Bowl title in 1973, defeating the Minnesota Vikings 24-7 in Super Bowl VIII, and compiled an overall record of 32-2 in those back-to-back seasons, a two-year mark that has yet to be surpassed.
Before joining the Dolphins, Don Shula spent seven years (1963-69) as head coach of the Baltimore Colts. In that span he compiled a record of 73-26-4 (.728) and advanced to the playoffs four times, including two appearances in the NFL Championship Game, in 1964 and 1968 after 12-2 and 13-1 campaigns. He was the youngest head coach (33 years old) in the history of the NFL when he was named the Colts’ head coach in 1963.
Don Shula succeeded Weeb Ewbank as head coach in Baltimore after serving 3 years (1960-62) as defensive coordinator of the Detroit Lions, with the team going 26-13- 1 in that period. Don Shula entered the coaching ranks with an assistant’s job at Virginia (1958) and Kentucky (1959) before joining the Lions.
Don Shula broke into the NFL as the lone rookie on Coach Paul Brown’s defending NFL champion Cleveland Browns in 1951. He was involved in the largest trade in modern NFL history, a 15-player deal with Baltimore in 1953, and Shula played four seasons with the Colts (1953-56) and one season at Washington (1957) at right cornerback. Don Shula had 21 career interceptions for 247 yards in seven seasons. In college, he was a running back at John Carroll University in Cleveland, and in 1950 he gained 125 yards when the Blue Streaks upset Syracuse, 21-15.
Don Shula also contributed to the growth of the NFL off the field by serving from 1975 though 1995 (including the last two years in that span as co-chairman along with George Young of the New York Giants) on the league’s influential Competition Committee, which evaluates and recommends changes in playing rules as well as regulations designed to improve the safety of playing conditions.
In addition to his own election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Don Shula was further honored by being selected to present five other members for induction into the Hall (Larry Csonka, Bob Griese, Jim Langer, Larry Little, and Dwight Stephenson), including two (Csonka and Langer) in the same day.
Along with his football responsibilities, Don Shula always has given considerable time, plus financial and emotional support, to many area charities. The Don Shula Foundation, formed primarily to assist breast cancer research, was established as a tribute to his late wife, Dorothy. Don Shula also has been active in the American Cancer Society, March of Dimes, American Red Cross, the United Way, and Catholic Charities.
A member of the Class of 1951 at John Carroll, Don Shula helps fund a $1 million chair in the University’s Department of Philosophy. On May 17, 1994, John Carroll University showed its appreciation for Don Shula‘s support of the school by naming its athletic complex the Don Shula Sports Center. Shula also has received honorary doctorate degrees from John Carroll, St. Thomas University, the University of Miami, and Florida Atlantic University. In addition, Don Shula‘s support of countless charitable and community efforts have led to the naming of the Don Shula Scholarship at St. Thomas University, The Shula Family Life Fitness Center at St. Thomas Aquinas High School and the Don & Mary Anne Shula Building at St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Miami Beach.
Because of his success on the football field and his long-time civic and charitable service, Don Shula has received countless prestigious awards recognizing his contributions, including the 1993 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year Award, the 1994 Horatio Alger Award, the Bert Bell Award, the Lombardi Award, and the Pete Rozelle Award.
In addition, along with Ken Blanchard, in 1995 Don Shula co-authored Everyone’s A Coach a highly acclaimed book that outlines the application of their managerial philosophies for business and personal success. Don Shula personifies those business principles himself, serving as an equity partner in two highly successful enterprises, Don Shula‘s Hotel & Golf Club along with Don Shula‘s Steak Houses, LP.
Don Shula and his wife Mary Anne reside in Miami and continue to be very active in charitable and community affairs. They were married on October 16, 1993, and their family together now includes eight children and fifteen grandchildren.