Before the 2021 Miami Dolphins try to get back on track against the Indianapolis Colts at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday, the organization will pay tribute to the man most responsible for the glory days of the franchise.
It's Alumni Weekend for the Dolphins, with former players reuniting in South Florida not only to reminisce and watch the current team play but also to honor the memory of Don Shula.
The Celebration of Life for Don Shula will take place Saturday at 4:30 p.m. ET and will feature a stage presentation with family members and former players talking about the all-time winningest coach in NFL history, the man who led the Dolphins to the only perfect season in league history and to Super Bowl titles in 1972 and 1973.
Shula, who passed away in May 2020 at the age of 90, is as synonymous with the Dolphins as anybody — probably more so, and his name still carries a lot of weight around the franchise.
"I’m definitely aware of the great history here and the great things that teams before us were able to do," current defensive tackle Christian Wilkins said this week. "The history here is pretty rich. I think that’s awesome. I think that’s pretty cool. Whenever former players come around and former coaches, I always have a little extra sense of let me listen, let me lock in or let me just go and say what’s up to that guy or that person, that coach, that former player or whatever and just shake their hand a lot of times when I can. There’s a lot of people that came before me that made the rich history here. It’s always pretty cool.”
Brian Flores, the 11th Dolphins head coach since Shula retired following the 1995 season, was asked this week whether the aura of Shula remains present around the organization.
“Yeah, I mean he’s one of the greatest coaches of all-time," Flores said. "I think he’s made an incredible impact on a lot of players. A lot of players, a lot of coaches and this league. It’s obviously a rich history here with the Dolphins. We have a great alumni base or alumni group that’s around the facility and at games. We’ve got a lot of great players who are around and I think it’s great.
"It’s obviously a very rich history. He’s a great coach. It was an honor and privilege for me to get to speak to him and get some insight from him about coaching and about helping guys become the best version of themselves from a preparation standpoint, and then take the things that they learned from football on the field and use it outside of football when they’re done, to help them attain success in other areas, which has certainly been the case with a lot of players he’s had.”
Probably not coincidentally, Shula is being honored on the weekend the Dolphins are facing the organization for which he began his head-coaching career before arriving in Miami in 1970.
To coincide with Alumni Weekend, the Dolphins are expected to wear their throwback uniforms against the Colts on Sunday.