Sun Sentinel Dave Hyde column
Dec 14, 2012 (Sun Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Don Shula moves across his home, slowly and carefully, with the help of an aluminum walker.
"Don't time me in the 40," he says.
A decade ago, he limped. Five years ago, he felt his body crumbling. Was it from playing football From age He didn't know. He just knows he played the last round of his beloved golf, when was it, a year ago Two years
"And look what I see every time I step outside," he says, chuckling and jerking a thumb toward the front door and the country club that sits across the street.
This is about chapters in our lives. The '72 Dolphins met at Shula's house Thursday night to kick off their 40th anniversary weekend. But when you played sports, you don't need anniversaries to tell time. Your body says enough.
"Back, legs, hips, shoulders," Shula says for why he needs the walker at home and a wheelchair or golf cart for the longer distances in public. "It's a combination of everything causing some trouble."
We'll all face the moment when we've played our last game, when we put our sports gear away, when old age, tired bones or just worn-out bodies mean the primary score we'll keep is how many steps we can take without help.
"I wonder if any of the guys will need that," Shula says of the Boys of '72, looking over at his walker.
A few weeks from turning 83, you can chart Shula's great life by the sports equipment he's held before America. There he is with a helmet beside Cleveland Browns teammate Dante Lavelli in a photo that sits on his office bookshelf.
There he is, in another photo, holding a coach's clipboard. There, on another shelf, is the Hall of Fame bust he held in Canton flanked by replicas of his two Super Bowl trophies he held aloft in celebration.
After that first Super Bowl win, he was being carried off the field by players in the manner his statue shows outside Sun Life Stadium when a fan stole the watch off his wrist.
Shula being Shula, he got down from his victory ride and chased after the fan. Got his watch back, too. Now he looks at the watch on his wrist to see how much longer before his late-morning therapy session starts.
"I do three a week," he says.
Three times a week, the man who once led his assistants through calisthenics to ensure they taught players correctly is put through a series of stretches, movements and general help to keep his body moving.
Pain Don't even ask. He is still a lot of man, still possesses too much of a quality gone missing in sports, one of dignity, to lament his station in life. Besides, he's felt some of the real pain of life in watching '72 coaches and players start to die more quickly around him.
Monte Clark. Carl Taseff. Hubert Ginn ...
"Jim Mandich was so special," he says. "I ever tell you when I first met him He was drafted before I got here [in 1970] and someone told me he was pulling up to our facility outside.
"I see this guy with long hair, sandals, sleeveless shirt. He says, 'I can't wait to see the girls on Miami Beach.' I say, 'You're not going to be spending much time there.' "
The pages turn, the story changes. It has been five years since Shula has seen some of the Perfect Season Dolphins. Like you before a high school reunion, he looks forward to reliving memories, rekindling friendships and see who's changed.
"Maybe I'll have them doing the 12-minute run to see who's in shape," he says.
The Shula they know would jog around the practice field each day, refusing to cut the corners of the end zones, in a perfect metaphor for the manner he has conducted his life.
What he has done in the nearly two decades since retiring is to grow in stature, enjoy life and allow us to take another look at him and his accomplishments. He isn't done.
"I want to get out and play golf again," he says.
That makes him smile for a moment. He names Dr. Elias, a family friend, as someone he could still beat. "I'd even send a cab for him," he says.
He looks at his watch again. It's 11:15 a.m. For years, family knew exactly what football meeting he'd be in by the day and time it was. He still follows the schedule in this latest chapter. It's time for his therapy to start.
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