Beloved Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula has passed at the age of 90. At the time of his death, Shula remained the winningest coach in NFL history. Shula’s importance in the culture and history of sports in Miami will forever engrain him as an integral figure in south Florida.
While his football accolades are widely known, the devout catholic had success later in life opening a number of restaurants. The Shula Empire expanded to Islamorada with a steakhouse at the Post Card Inn. While that restaurant has closed, Shula also has connections to another local favorite.
Ziggie & Mad Dog’s was famously started by Ziggie Stocki and later taken over by Jim “Mad Dog” Mandich – hence the name Ziggie & Mad Dog’s. Mandich earned the nickname Mad Dog for his personality and style of play as a Miami Dolphins team member under Coach Shula during the team’s glory years. Mad Dog was a key player in the team’s multiple superbowl wins and 1972 perfect season led by Coach Shula.
Don Shula was a deeply religious man, even considering pursuing priesthood before settling on the path of coaching. The devout catholic established the Don Shula Foundation for Breast Cancer Research in honor of his first wife, Dorothy, who passed from the disease in 1991.
Even before his death, Don Shula has been honored and recognized in significant ways in our community. There is a statue of him at Hard Rock Stadium and there’s the Don Shula Expressway in Miami. Another tradition honoring the late coach includes an annual football game between two south Florida schools, Florida Atlantic and FIU. This game has appropriately been donned the ‘Shula Bowl’ and the winner of this game receives a traveling trophy called the Don Shula Award.
Thank you Coach Shula, for your years of leadership and contributions to south Florida both on and off the football field. Forever a legend, rest in peace.