An 84-year-old Don Shula, the legendary NFL coach who guided the Miami Dolphins to the only perfect season in NFL history, spoke glowingly of former NFL MVP Earl Morrall at a packed church of family and friends during a celebration Mass on Tuesday in Davie, Fla.
The church was not far from where the Dolphins train and is in the city that Morrall, a longtime NFL quarterback, later presided over as mayor, according to an Associated Press report.
Morrall, who was a key component to the perfect season as a fill-in for injured Hall of Famer Bob Griese, died April 25 on the 42nd anniversary of the day that he signed with Miami.
“We go back a long way and Earl’s been a very, very important part of my life,” said Shula, who was confined to a motorized cart but sharply recalled Morrall’s role in his career. “Any success that I’ve had he’s been a part of. I met him in Detroit when I was an assistant there and then when I had the opportunity to bring him to Miami I didn’t hesitate, although (late Dolphins owner) Joe Robbie wasn’t quite sure he could come up with the money.”
Fellow Dolphins Bob Griese, Dan Marino, Larry Little, Nick Buoniconti and Dwight Stephenson, along with several other former Miami players, attended the Mass. Some of Morrall’s teammates from the Baltimore Colts, including offensive lineman Dan Sullivan, also were in attendance. Morrall was the NFL MVP for Baltimore, also coached by Shula, in the 1968 season that ended with the famous upset loss to the New York Jets in Super Bowl III at Miami’s Orange Bowl.