Shula re­mem­bered for ca­reer with class

Levy says coach was ‘one of the great cred­its to the game that has ever been’

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - SPORTS MEMORIES - Larry Csonka, ex-Mi­ami RB on Don Shula.

MI­AMI — Don Shula of­ten said he wanted to be re­mem­bered for play­ing within the rules, and that’s what hap­pened Mon­day.

In the wake of his death at age

90, an out­pour­ing of trib­utes from around the NFL saluted not only Shula’s two Su­per Bowl cham­pi­onships and NFL-record 347 coach­ing vic­to­ries, but also the way he won.

“He’s one of the great cred­its to the game that has ever been,” said Shula’s long­time friendly ri­val, for­mer Buf­falo Bills coach Marv Levy. “The fact he was the win­ningest coach in the his­tory of the league and did it by play­ing by the rules and hon­or­ing the game — cer­tainly that is im­pres­sive. He’ll be re­mem­bered for the suc­cess he had and also the type of per­son he was, for his abil­ity and also his char­ac­ter.”

NFL coaches, play­ers and com­mis­sion­ers past and present were among those to praise Shula’s legacy. The group in­cluded Jimmy John­son and Bill Belichick, even though both were re­garded fros­tily by Shula.

“Don Shula rep­re­sented the high­est stan­dards of ex­cel­lence by vir­tu­ally any mea­sure,” for­mer com­mis­sioner Paul Tagli­abue said. “His con­tri­bu­tions to the NFL and the game of foot­ball ex­tended far be­yond his all-time record vic­tory to­tal. Don also was an all-time win­ner when it came to in­tegrity, hon­esty and class.”

Shula spent more than 20 years on the pow­er­ful com­pe­ti­tion com­mit­tee, which eval­u­ates play­ing rules, and he al­ways val­ued his rep­u­ta­tion for in­tegrity.

“He would not bend the rules,” said Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame full­back Larry Csonka, one of Shula’s fa­vorite play­ers. “If we cheated to win, that was con­sid­ered the worst kind of loss as far as he was con­cerned.”

Csonka re­called dis­cov­er­ing the op­po­nent’s game plan in the locker room be­fore a road game in the early 1970s. Csonka gave it to as­sis­tant coach Monte Clark to give to Shula, as­sum­ing the coach would take ad­van­tage of the inside in­for­ma­tion.

The Dol­phins lost. Csonka said that when he later asked Clark what be­came of the game plan, the as­sis­tant coach re­sponded: “Coach Shula said, ‘Throw it out. If we can’t beat them play­ing by the rules, we shouldn’t win.”

Be­cause of Shula’s rep­u­ta­tion, his com­ments car­ried ex­tra weight when he ques­tioned Belichick’s in­tegrity in the wake of the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots’ spy­ing and de­flated foot­ball scan­dals, re­fer­ring to him in 2015 as “Belicheat.”

There was no ref­er­ence to their rift in a state­ment Mon­day from Belichick.

“Don Shula is one of the all-time great coach­ing fig­ures, and the stan­dard for con­sis­tency and lead­er­ship in the NFL,” Belichick said.

John­son also paid trib­ute, even though Shula har­bored hard feel­ings to­ward the coach who suc­ceeded him with the Dol­phins in 1996.

“RIP, one of the great­est of all time ... Don Shula,” John­son tweeted. “He set the stan­dard.”

Oth­ers who fol­lowed Shula into the pro­fes­sion agreed.

“We lost one of the most iconic men in the his­tory of NFL coach­ing in Don Shula,” for­mer Pitts­burgh Steel­ers coach Bill Cowher tweeted. “His lead­er­ship and wis­dom helped to guide me and many oth­ers who have made a life in coach­ing foot­ball. Thank you Coach Shula. May your spirit and legacy live on for­ever.”

“If we cheated to win, that was con­sid­ered the worst kind of loss.”

2007, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

As an ex­am­ple of his in­tegrity, Hall of Fame coach Don Shula re­jected the use of an op­po­nent’s play­book Dol­phins run­ning back Larry Csonka found in the locker room be­fore a road game in the early 1970s.

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