Hall of Fame coach and former Brown Don Shula passed away this morning at 90 years old
Legendary Hall of Fame coach Don Shula, a Grand River, Ohio, native who starred at John Carroll University and began his playing career with his hometown Browns before going on to become the game's winningest head coach, passed away Monday. He was 90 years old.
Shula's 347 wins as a head coach (counting postseason) are the most in league history. He amassed them over a coaching career that began in 1963 with the Baltimore Colts and continued all the way until 1995, when he retired after 26 seasons with the Miami Dolphins. Shula won an NFL Championship (1968) with the Colts and two Super Bowls in Miami.
"Much like the entire football community, we are mourning the loss of Don Shula," the Browns said in an official statement. "Well before he became known as the legendary Coach Shula, he was growing up in Northeast Ohio with a passion for the game we all love. We're proud of the fact that his football foundation was built in Ohio, starting at Harvey High School in Painesville, playing collegiately at John Carroll and then being drafted by the Browns. Coach Shula's contribution to our game are unmatched. Our heartfelt condolences go out to the entire Shula Family."
The Browns drafted Shula in the ninth round (110th overall) in the 1951 draft. He appeared in 12 games as a rookie with six starts and intercepted four passes. The following year, Shula played in the team's final five games after serving with the Ohio National Guard during the Korean War. He left in 1953 for Baltimore, where he played four more seasons, before closing his career with Washington in 1957.
Shula, in a video feature for ClevelandBrowns.com, said he likely caught the attention of Browns head coach Paul Brown during his days at John Carroll in a game against Syracuse at the Browns' stadium.
"The Browns came in 1946, and that's when I became a Cleveland Browns fan," Shula said. "If you sat in the bleachers and wore your letter sweater, you could get in there for 50 cents. That was a pretty good deal. I've just got so many memories as a college student sitting in the Dawg Pound.
"That was pretty overwhelming. Playing for a small school right in the Cleveland Browns' backyard, and now I've got a Browns uniform on. If we hadn't of played Syracuse, I probably would have never had the opportunity to play for the Browns."
Shula was an assistant coach at the collegiate level, including a stint with Blanton Collier at Kentucky, before returning to the NFL as an assistant in 1960 with the Lions. He was hired in 1963 by Baltimore, where he would begin a 33-year run as an NFL head coach. Over that time span, Shula posted 20 double-digit win seasons, including a perfect 1972 in which the Dolphins went wire-to-wire to win Super Bowl VII, and coached in 36 playoff games. In his 26 years with the Dolphins, Shula had just two losing seasons.
Shula was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997.