I first saw the Coach at the infamous Jets-Colts Super Bowl where the outcome was not good for the Colts, but I mention this because it only amplified his hunger to get back to the big game when he joined the Dolphins a year later.
The first time I saw Shula up close was in all places a Southwest flight from Tampa to Fort. Lauderdale in the early 90’s. I had just finished some work for my company and I could only guess he was up there opening one of his many restaurants. I walked past his seat and blurted “Hey Coach” and he smiled and gave me a nod. I’ll never forget it.
It was years later long after he retired when we scored some sideline seats at a game and Coach came walking by us. This was just before he started walking with a cane and then later in the golf cart. Again, we yelled “Hey Coach” and as always he stopped, smiled, and waved at us. I don’t remember the game or the outcome, but I remember that moment.
The other strong memory I have of Coach was his press conferences. He had many “Shula-isms” but my favorite was when he said that the team “needed to rise to the occasion”, and then “we won because we rose to the occasion”.
Players that played for him always commented how hard he made them work, but the rewards and victories were more than worth it.
Even today as I watch the 2020 team, I always ask myself “What would Shula do here?”
His leadership and motivational skills were beyond great, but also as the game changed over the years he remained consistent. You always knew as the season started that you had a chance to go all the way.
Hey Coach, you have left an eternal mark on South Florida, and coaches today and in years to come will always be aspiring to walk in your shoes. That was one your nicknames too, wasn’t it? Shoes.
Anyway, I’m just a fan who is sad today that a legend has left the field. I know that many of you out there have some personal memories and moments about Coach Shula, and we would love to hear from you. Comment below.
Hey Coach! We love and miss you already.