Former Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula died Monday, May 4, at the age of 90. Shula holds the most regular season and total wins in the history of the NFL and is the only head coach to lead an undefeated NFL team, which he did in 1972. He is survived by his wife, Mary Anne Stephens, and five children, Mike, Donna, Sharon, Anne and Dave Shula.
David Shula is the eldest son of Don Shula, legendary coach of the Miami Dolphins, a former football player, NFL head coach and the current wide receiver coach of Dartmouth College’s Big Green football team.
Shula played one year as a wide receiver at Dartmouth College, played in the NFL as a wide receiver and punt returner for the Baltimore (now Indianapolis) Colts, and had multiple NFL coaching positions, including as the head coach for the Cincinnati Bengals.
The 60-year-old Shula has four siblings: one brother who went on to become a football coach, Michael, and his three sisters, Donna, Sharon and Annie. He is married to his college sweetheart, Leslie, and has three sons.
Here’s what you need to know about Dave Shula, Don Shula’s 60-year-old son:
1. Shula Was Head Coach of the Cincinnati Bengals
Shula became one of the NFL’s youngest assistant coaches when his father hired him as an assistant coach of the Miami Dolphins in 1982; Shula was 23 then. He went on to attend Superbowl 17, which the Dolphins lost. A few years later, he was offered a head coaching job.
The New York Times reported that a 26-year-old Shula could be found at the Miami Dolphins’ studying plays before his father ever checked in. That work ethic led him to be hired as an offensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys in 1989, where he helped mentor future Pro-Football Hall of Famer Troy Aikman.
In 1991, he became an assistant coach with the Cincinnati Bengals. He was named head coach at the age of 32 in 1992 and took the Bengals to 5-11 during his first season. He spent nearly five years (1992-1996) as the Bengals’ coach before he was fired after starting his fifth season 1-6. He left NFL coaching with a head coach record of 19-52.
Of his coaching career at Cincinnati, Shula told the Cincinnati Enquirer poor draft picks played a big role in the team’s failures, but he also said he could have done abetter job.
“I should have been more forceful in saying look, in order to move the team forward we need to build with character and we didn’t do that in certain decisions,” he said.
2. One of Shula’s Sons Is A Coach for the LA Rams
Dave Shula met his wife, Leslie, at Dartmouth College, where she was a classmate and Big Green tennis player. The couple married and had three sons, Daniel, Christopher and Matthew.
One of their sons, Chris, is currently an assistant linebackers coach for the Los Angeles Rams. Dave’s son and the Rams’ head coach, Sean McVay, had a close relationship, according to the Palm Beach Post, which reported that the two were teammates and roommates in college.
“I’ve always, I think, had a chip on my shoulder to try to prove that I didn’t get to this position because of my last name,” Chris told the reporter, adding that now, carrying that last name represents an honor. “It motivates me to be the same way as them and live up to the legacy,” he said.
3. Shula Ran His Father’s Restaurant for Several Years
Shula is currently a wide receiver coach at Dartmouth College.
However, when he was approached about running a restaurant that carried his father’s name, Shula’s Steak House, he took the job in 1997. Shula told the Miami Herald. that although he didn’t know much about being a restauranteur, his mother, Dorothy, encouraged him to take the job, telling him, “Eventually, you’re going to hang up your whistle.”
When he heard the restaurant would be themed after the Dolphin’s undefeated season, Shula said he excited.
“I just didn’t have a feeling that I had any aptitude for the restaurant business, other than eating a lot of food,” he told the Miami Herald. “I didn’t get into the business to do anything but enhance the reputation that he built as a football coach.”
“So, don’t screw it up,” his father, Don, had interjected.
Shula didn’t and the restaurant franchise flourished under his leadership. The restaurant was used to publicize The Shula Fund, which raises money for breast cancer research, and has expanded internationally. In 2015, there were 36 locations across the country.
Once the restaurant chain hired a new CEO, Shula told Valley News that gave him free rein to pursue coaching at Dartmouth.
4. Shula Is an Ironman
“There are not that many people who do these things,” he told the reporter.
The Ironman challenge consists of a 2.4-mile swim, followed by 112 miles on the bike and a 26.2-mile run.
Shula had trained for the Ironman for several years, once biking 900 miles with Buddy Teevens, his former college teammate and then-head coach at Dartmouth, in 2007, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
His trainer, Mike Kenny, said Shula spent eight years competing in triathlons before he attempted his first Ironman. While training for the Ironman, Shula spent 15-27 hours of training every week for 24 weeks.
The triathlon is something he picked up after his three sons left the home, according to his wife, Leslie, who has also kept active with pilates and spinning classes. “I can’t imagine the determination it takes,” she said of her husband’s achievements.
Shula completed his first Ironman challenge at the age of 50.
Since then, he has taken on the challenge multiple times.
5. Shula Played Football for the Team He Would Coach
Shula attended Dartmouth College and graduated in 1981, Valley News reported.
Shula was a record-setting receiver for the team, despite being somewhat undersized. He set a record with 49 catches in his sophomore year, and again in his senior year, with 52 catches and 133 receptions.
At Dartmouth, he caught most of his passes from Buddy Teevans, who has coached Dartmouth’s football team for nearly 20 years off-and-on, hired Shula for the job.
Shula remembered getting the green light from his wife, his sons — one of whom, Dan, played for the team in 2006 — and of course, his father, Don.
Shula recalled the conversation he had with his father about returning to Dartmouth in an interview with the Big Green Alert.
“My dad was funny,” he said, a faraway look in his eyes. “I told him and he was excited. He said what I hoped he would say, which was, ‘You have always loved coaching, you love Dartmouth and you have a great relationship with Coach Teevens.
‘I think it’s awesome that you are doing it.'”