On the next play, which was third down, Vero Beach interfered in the end zone. The penalty gave Columbus first-and-goal on the five, but Shula, still woozy, figured it was fourth down. So when he was about to be sacked by what he thought was the game-ending play, he shifted the ball to his right hand behind his back and intentionally fumbled. The ball squirted into the end zone, where the Explorers recovered. Shula passed for the tying two-point conversion and then heaved a touchdown strike to win the game in overtime.
After Perkins got the Alabama job he received a congratulatory call from Shula Sr., who had coached him in Baltimore. Don suggested that Perkins take a look at Mike. Perkins watched the kid play a quarter of basketball and then studied a few reels of Mike playing football. The coach liked what he saw. Mike broke his leg in spring practice of his freshman year and went 3-3 as a starter late in '84. Last fall, the 6'2", 200-pound Shula guided the Tide to a 9-2-1 finish. He now has firm command of an offense that requires quick reads but not a rifle. "His arm strength and his foot speed are definitely question marks," says Don. "But he makes the big plays, and how do you measure that?"
If the pros don't beckon, his dad's profession will. "I can't imagine life without football," says Mike.