Don Shula did a Q&A with Fox Sports on Sunday via their radio network show. It is only a small 3 question interview, but it is Don Shula, so who really cares how long it is, right? Kevin Lerner of the Sun-Sentinel has provided a transcript of the interview, and I would not be surprised if while he was writing it, he was thinking to himself, “Man I wish I got this information first hand“.
I had the opportunity to meet the legendary Coach. I was 17 at the time, over 20 years ago. It was one of those moments in your life that you never forget. It was after a game against the Cleveland Browns in Cleveland, before post game news conferences were held in media only venues next to the locker-room with the not so pretty sponsor banner hanging behind the podium. No, back then they were conducted outside, between the bus and the locker-room, and, the fans got to watch the whole thing, live, not on ESPN.
I stood in the crown that day, front row of a circle of fans that looked like the rings of a sawed treetrunk. It expanded outwards, it was tight. Shula was directly in front of me, I was to his right as he answered questions. He reached over towards me for the picture I was holding in my hand, not bothering to look up or stop talking to the media contingent in front of him. He took the picture and signed it, looking down he noticed that the picture was from his playing days with the Browns.
“Where did you get this?“, he said with his typical half cocked smile and a hint of pleasant surprise in his voice. The kind of surprise that tells you there was a flash of memory to something forgotten but good. I told him my dad gave it to me, and his dad had given it to him. It was a lie, I panicked, Don Shula had just spoken to me. I actually found the 8×10 in a box of photos at a local card shop. I wish now that I would have bought them all. It cost me a dollar.
“I didn’t realize that I was that old”, Shula said half laughing. I said it wasn’t an heirloom, he just found it in a store. Shula laughed. Then, in what I can only describe as pure FEAR, he pulled me out of the crowd. No, I wasn’t afraid for my life, or getting hurt, it was the other kind of fear, that fear that makes your nerves get so bad you can’t walk on your own. Don Shula was pulling me into the ring with him.
He put his arm over my shoulder and then asked, “What did you think of the game today?” My answer was something to the effect that it was fun to watch, if you were a Browns fan, but that being able to see the Phins play in person was worth it. The Browns had won that game. It was at that time that a reporter asked this to Shula. “How do you think your team played today“. Shula looks at me and says, “You answer it.”
I turned, shaking, felt the hand on my shoulder squeeze tighter to calm my nerves, like a father figure of sorts that says, “it’s o.k., that dog doesn’t bite”, and then, my mouth opened and I found I could actually speak. “The Dolphins lost. Nothing else really matters. The overall team play was not good enough today to win. I am sure that Coach Shula will tell his team to forget it and start planning for next week.”
Coach Shula stepped away and said, “He is answering all my questions from now on.” Of course, I didn’t, but I stood next to him while he did. I stood next to Don Shula. It was without doubt the most memorable moment of my life in terms of the Miami Dolphins, of everything outside of my own family. At the end, Shula turned and shook my hand. He smiled and thanked me for being a fan. I watched, silently and in shock as he disappeared into the crowd, heading to the buses.
I have been fortunate to meet a lot of Dolphin players over the years. From Bob Baumhauer to Dan Marino, Larry Csonka to Mark Clayton (who by the way is a great person to talk to). I have been very fortunate. I have even had the opportunity to run into Coach Shula again years later. All have their own stories, all were more than just a passing by and saying, “Will you sign this Sir“. They were all conversations.
You know what’s funny? I started this blog off wishing that I would have been the one who did the Don Shula article. I guess, a long time ago, I did.
For the Fox News radio interview with legendary coach Don Shula, please click here or click “continue reading” at the bottom of this page.
It’s funny when you “read” a Don Shula article, you don’t just read it, you actually hear him saying it. The tone of his voice is etched in the memories of a million Miami Dolphins fans, I guess that is why it sparked my memory.
20 years ago, as a 17 year old kid, I was awestruck, 21 years later as a 38 year old, I still am. I never said thank you for that Mr. Shula. So thank you.
The following is a transcript of Sunday’s FOX Game Time interview, released by the radio network, with Dolphins legendary coach Don Shula.
Q: Nick Saban, any chance that he can make amends with your family and your franchise with what he did?
SHULA: “I think he’s burned all his bridges. He came in here and said a lot of things and none of them were true. They were just found out to be blatant lies. He goes and does something completely opposite of what he said he was going to do. He was here for two years. He was 15-17 in those two years so he didn’t fulfill the promises that he made when he left LSU to come here. And then his agent and the people that were talking to Alabama on the sly when my son Mike was up there. I found out a lot about that also, so there aren’t a lot of good thoughts I have about Saban.”
Q: Don, which part of that story makes you more angry? What he did to the Dolphins in terms of the way he treated that franchise, or how he kind of went in a certain door there in Alabama and helped maybe facilitate the exit of your son?
SHULA: “Well I think both of them. The fact that he came in here and Wayne Huizenga showed great faith in him and did an extensive search before he hired him and then he comes in and he just lets everyone down. He’s entitled to make whatever decisions he thinks are best for his future. I certainly understand that. The thing that I don’t understand is for him to say one and thing and do another. And a lot of the things that he said were blatant lies.”
Q: Cam Cameron – your impression of that hire, and your impression of their decision to pass on Brady Quinn?
SHULA: “I think Cam Cameron was the right guy for the job. He’s got an offensive background, he was with Marty Schottenheimer – a good friend of mine out in San Diego who was an excellent coach – he’s out of it now too. He said good things about Cam Cameron. I met with him one time and I was impressed with him. He’s got that offensive background and that’s what the Dolphins need – that offensive background. As far as Brady Quinn’s concerned, we have to just wait and see. If Beck, their second-round pick, turns out to be as good as Brady Quinn as a quarterback, or maybe even better, then they get Ginn – the exciting, electric guy from Ohio St. punt and kickoff returns as a receiver, a big-play player – that’s going to add some excitement to this football team. If Brady Quinn turns out to be a Dan Marino or a world-beater of a quarterback, then everybody’s made a mistake to pass him up.”