Miami Dolphins fans knew Don Shula for his success on the field. But those blessed to see Shula off the field knew that he was every bit as successful in his Catholic faith. He just wouldn’t show it.
“What impressed me the most was that he did not lord it over people,” said Fr Juan Sosa, parish priest of St Joseph’s in Miami Beach, where Shula attended the last 10 years of his life. Fr Sosa anointed the football coach the morning of 4th May, the day the legendary coach died.
A tweet from the Dolphins on 4th May said Shula ‘passed away peacefully at his home’. No cause of death was given.
Shula was born in 1930 in Grand River, Ohio. He played college football at John Carroll University in the Cleveland area and entered the NFL with the Browns in 1951.
“He was a great symbol for Miami, but he didn’t overdo it. He knew how much he was respected and loved. But he did not draw from that fame, but rather the love of children and grandchildren and his wife,” Fr Sosa said.
The priest recalled how Shula told him that Detroit Cardinal John Francis Dearden, when he was a priest, influenced him almost to the point of entering the seminary.
But the Church’s loss was football’s gain. Shula coached the National Football League’s Baltimore Colts (1963-69) and Dolphins (1970-95), leading his teams to six Super Bowls. The Dolphins won two Super Bowls, including a perfect 17-0 record in the 1972 season. Shula’s 347 victories are an NFL best.
Picture: Don Shula is carried off the field after defeating the Philadelphia Eagles in this 1993 file photo. The legendary Miami Dolphins coach died on 4th May 2020. Fr Juan Sosa, parish priest of St Joseph’s in Miami Beach, where Shula had been a parishioner for the last 10 years, described the coach as “a great symbol for Miami”. (CNS photo/Gary Hershorn, Reuters).