Shula’s record 347 wins likely will never be surpassed in this day and age of coaching carousels, which is why his journey from near priesthood to the peak of his profession is so intriguing. Three seasons into “A Football Life Presented by Chase,” the two-time, Emmy-nominated documentary series produced by NFL Films, his life and career are finally being explored from start to finish.
Tonight at 9 p.m. on NFL Network, “Don Shula: A Football Life” airs as the second episode of an expanded 22-episode season. Past episodes have given truly unique glimpses into the mystique that surrounds current and former NFL legends and this one does not disappoint.
From recognizable and iconic footage of the 1972 Perfect Season and the Miami Dolphins’ 14-7 win over the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII to the rarely heard story of former Baltimore Colts’ Pro Bowl safety Rick Volk after he was knocked unconscious in Super Bowl III, no stone is left unturned. Compelling interviews with Volk and his wife detailing the care and compassion Shula displayed along with insight from Hall-of-Famers Larry Csonka, Nick Buoniconti and Dan Marino, former Dolphins running back Mercury Morris, former Dolphins wide receiver Irving Fryar and others round out the comprehensive piece.
The NFL Films crew was present at Shula’s waterfront home in Miami last year during the 40th anniversary of the ’72 season for the reunion party he threw and captured some tender and humorous moments between the coach and his former players. Hall-of-Fame guard Larry Little provides one of the funnier moments during the reception at Shula’s house and there is also grainy footage of Shula’s notoriously tough but productive practices.
By the time the documentary ends, any remote questions about Shula’s greatness and his legacy both as a coach and a mentor are answered. His older son, David, who coached against him while leading the Cincinnati Bengals, along with younger son, Mike, provide some insight into what life was like at home with a coaching legend. There is even an archived interview with Shula’s late first wife, Dorothy, who succumbed to breast cancer in 1991.
If there ever was a program that can be categorized as must-see television for Dolphins fans, “Don Shula: A Football Life” is the one.