"You guys do a great job," Shula replied, thinking Johnson was part of the city's police department.
In March 1992 actor Kevin Costner was seated in front of Shula at a pro tennis tournament in Miami, and he turned around to shake Shula's hand. "Dad had no idea who Kevin was," Donna says. "He just figured it was some guy who wanted to meet him."
The only thing more striking than Shula's tunnel vision is his obsession with winning. Everywhere you turn there's a story about Shula's competitiveness, and often it has nothing to do with football. For a casual round of golf, he has been known to stack teams in his favor, and he has scheduled tennis matches for the hottest time of the day.
Rumor has it that Shula even used to train for the treadmill part of his annual physical. His purpose was to show more endurance than Bobby Beathard, then the Dolphins' director of player personnel (and now general manager of the San Diego Chargers), who was a marathoner. To this day Shula pooh-poohs such talk. "How could I ever beat Bobby on a treadmill test?" he says. "His feet never touch the ground when he runs."
But there are witnesses to Shula's madness. "At 11 o'clock one night we were sitting in a meeting, and Don took out the report from the doctors and started asking each of us what our potassium level was, our uric-acid level," recalls George Young, who was then the Dolphins' director of pro scouting and is now general manager of the New York Giants. "And I said, 'Don, people think we're in here making great decisions, and you're talking about our urinalysis?' He said, 'I'm going to subpoena your medical report!' "
Shula still jogs, sometimes 30 minutes a day, so that he can keep his weight down and his performance on the treadmill test up. He grudgingly admits that this year his doctor stopped him one minute sooner than he did in 1992. "But," Shula quickly adds, "I could have gutted it out."
"I've never seen a guy with more energy," says Monte Clark, who has worked for Shula off and on since 1970 as an assistant coach and personnel director. "I think the church he goes to is called Our Lady of Perpetual Motion."
However, the most formidable weapons in Shula's football arsenal arc preparation and attention to detail. For years he has adhered to a strict daily routine during the season, beginning with an early-morning Mass. Every Monday he tells the team its schedule for the week. Then, the first thing each morning, he reiterates the specifics for that day. Shula is so set in his ways that during more than two decades with the Dolphins, he and his family have moved only once—to the six-bedroom ranch house next door. "Don's idea of change is moving 15 paces to the north," says Young.
Shula demands more than most people are willing to give, and he is incensed if a player shows a lack of commitment or makes a stupid mistake. That brings forth The Look. "People say I lead with my chin, and they're probably right," Shula says. "My nature is to confront. But I don't do it to intimidate anybody. I do it to get my point through."
You heard him correctly: get his point through, not across. No wonder some of the nicest expressions that have been used to describe Shula are "Sherman tank" and "bulldozer." One of Shula's former employees who got fed up with The Look now cherishes a photograph of himself standing in Don Shula's Hotel and Golf Club in Miami Lakes and making an obscene gesture at a gigantic picture of his old boss in a rage on the sideline. Ask Shula's current players and assistants for behind-the-scenes stories about him, and you get nothing for the record but carefully measured gobbledygook.