We already knew the Miami Dolphins were surprised to be able to get Dan Marino with the next-to-last pick of the first round of the 1983 NFL draft just a few months after playing i the Super Bowl.
Marino re-emphasized that when he conducted a video conference call to pay tribute to legendary coach Don Shula, who passed away Monday morning at the age of 90.
Marino explained that he didn't meet Shula in person until after the draft, so certain were the Dolphins that the quarterback from the University of Pittsburgh would be selected long before their pick at number 27 overall.
"My first memory was coming for minicamp," Marino said. "(It was the) first time I met him, I walked into his office and the funny part was before the draft, I never talked to Coach Shula, none of the scouts or anything because I didn’t think they thought I was going to be available for them to draft me. So the first time I really talked to Coach Shula besides on the phone draft day saying, ‘Hey, how’d you like to be a Dolphin?’ was in his office coming to minicamp.
"I remember it was a little intimidating because it was the first time you’re meeting a head coach — a guy that was so successful — but I do remember what he told me was, ‘I want you to come in in good shape, be prepared, prepare yourself this summer as if you had come in to be the starter,’ and he made an impact on me right away that way. He believed in me. He was like, ‘I believe in you. I want you work that way so you can come in and compete and actually feel like you’re going to be the starting quarterback.’ That just gave me a lot of confidence right off the bat. That was my first meeting actually with Coach Shula.”
Shula also recalled that 1983 draft in a wide-ranging interview he did with Sports Illustrated's MMQB a few years back.
"Marino keeps sliding down and we can't figure out what's going on. And it gets to Pittsburgh before us and Pittsburgh passed him up and he's from Pittsburgh. We were going to take a defensive lineman and Marino was on the board. So I said, 'We're taking Marino.' Our defensive coach said, 'No, we need this defensive lineman.' I said, 'No, we need Marino.' "
Shula and Marino worked together for 13 seasons, from 1983 until Shula's final year in 1995. During that time, the Dolphins won five AFC East titles and made the playoffs seven times.
"I had nothing but respect from Coach Shula and how he was as a person," Marino said. He helped me as a player, but he also helped me (learn) how to develop as a human being. Coming to Miami, I was 21 years old and just to watch him and how he handled the press, how he handled his business, everything he did as a person in the community, all of those things you admired as a young guy and he taught me all that. From that standpoint, yes, I’d say he is a mentor.
"I think I always had that relationship with him. He always was there to give me advice, to take care of me when I needed it and after he retired, he became a really good friend and someone that I enjoyed being around.”