September 30, 2014

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Icon: Don Shula

Former NFL coach, age 79

Mike Vogel | 5/1/2009
» At one time I thought about the priesthood. I went to a retreat when I was at John Carroll University. I was so impressed by this Jesuit priest that gave the retreat that I was ready to follow him and go into the priesthood. Then when I thought about I wouldn’t be able to play football, basketball, baseball, run track, I thought better of it.

Don Shula
Don Shula [Photo: Brian Smith]

» We have my breast cancer foundation fund-raiser golf tournament. Our whole objective is to raise money for breast cancer research. We’ve raised probably close to $2 million.

» I do have a great sense of humor, although when you saw me on the sidelines, you probably couldn’t imagine that. But I do enjoy a good laugh and having fun.

» When I retired I said I was going to use my time to get to know my kids and my grandkids and make up for all the family time I missed because of the demands of the coaching profession. We’ve done so much since I retired from coaching that our life has stayed busy, exciting, always something to look forward to.

» We have 30 some locations (Shula’s steakhouses) now. My wife and I go to promotional activities, openings and whenever we’re around visiting a town that has a restaurant in it, we always make sure we stop by. Everything I’ve done in business has been centered on this is what I believe and what I do. It’s not fabricated.

» You’ve got to give the NFL, you know, the owners, credit for knowing how to manage their game. The growth has all been intelligent growth and expansion. The game fits on TV better than any other game. It’s the national pastime now.

» When you’re watching your kids or grandkids play or coach, you sit up there and you’re powerless as to what happens on the field, and you just hope and pray things go well for them.

» I learned a long time ago you can’t change the score. And if it’s a negative score, you’ve got to live with it, and you have to hope you learned something positive from going through that negative experience, and then you wash it out of your mind. You don’t let it linger. If you let a loss linger or affect you in any way as to your upcoming preparation, then you’re not doing your job; you’re not being fair to your players. Your thoughts have got to be positive. You’ve got to get that across to your players, and then their thoughts have to be positive. You can’t go in with self-doubt.

» I’ve never tried to have things I can’t control influence my life or my thought process or what I was trying to accomplish.

» We wanted to have perfect meetings, and then when we went out onto the practice field we wanted to have perfect practices. If you’re making errors on the practice field, you don’t start playing perfect on Sunday.

» Some coaches would teach what you can get away with as far as offensive holding. I always tried to teach within the rules and then coach within the rules and took a lot of pride in being the least penalized team.

» You don’t treat Bob Griese the same way you would treat a guy that just didn’t work as hard at preparation as Griese, who was very conscious of doing the right thing. Some people you would accomplish what you wanted to accomplish by public humiliation and others it would destroy. You’ve got to know the makeup of the people you’re dealing with. You’ve got to get into their heads, find out what makes them tick and then be able to push the right buttons to get the most of out of their ability.

» I was always the youngest one on the playground or the youngest one on the team, but I was always the one who was putting the teams together or calling the signals or running the show. It was just a leadership instinct that I had, always wanted to make sure it was being done the right way — sometimes not too popular with my teammates.

» (Paul Brown) put the classroom into pro football. Before Paul the whole thought was, we’ve got to kick the hell out of them. Paul taught you how to do it step by step. His assistant coaches were unbelievable teachers, and the guy I learned the most from was Blanton Collier. I don’t know if he ever played a down in his life, but he was a great teacher, sort of patterned my coaching style after him.

» You’re totally consumed by the coaching profession.

» My dad came over from the old country when he was 8 years old, came over from Hungary. When I was in the ninth grade, I went out for junior varsity football and I got my nose cut open. So the next year they wouldn’t sign the permission slip, so I forged it. I got them to go to the first game. I returned a punt for a touchdown, and they were saying, ‘That’s my boy.’ From then on they never missed a game.

» I was a math major. I loved English.

» How can you have a better work ethic than Peyton Manning or Eli or the upbringing they’ve had? You look at guys, Marino, the 17 years he played and the way he competed. They’re still out there. In order to be the best you can be, you’ve got to be willing to put everything that you have into it to get the most out of your ability.

» We have 16 grandkids now and one great-grandchild just recently born. It’s just fun to watch them interact and watch them grow year in and year out.

» With my kids there was always a ball out there ... but they weren’t forced to do it. I wanted them to want to do it. I think the worst thing you could do is try to shame them into doing it, force them into doing it.

» People are really nice; they really are.

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