When the Dolphins unveiled a mural with the likeness of Don Shula at Hard Rock Stadium on Thursday, the Shula family was represented by son David, which signaled the best news of all.
Don couldn’t attend, David told The Palm Beach Post, because he and wife Mary Anne were at their summer home in San Francisco. The reason it’s significant that Don is able to travel to California: He recently had a pacemaker implanted.
“He’s doing fine,” David said. “He had the pacemaker put in back in May and since then he’s recovered nicely and he has good quality of life and he’s able to enjoy things.”
It was in May that the health of Don Shula, 86, became a concern throughout South Florida. Amid conflicting reports over whether he had been hospitalized once or multiple times, Mary Anne issued a statement saying he’d been admitted because of fluid retention and sleep apnea. Her statement said the family expected a “speedy recovery” but made no mention of heart issues.
“Things were slowing down overall,” David Shula said. “And his doctors thought it was the best course of action for him to have overall bodily functions.”
He said his father and Mary Anne typically spend summers in their home in the Bay Area “to get through hurricane season.”
David proudly helped pull the curtain to unveil a mural of his Hall of Fame father outside The ’72 Club at Hard Rock Stadium. Don led the Dolphins to two Super Bowl victories and is the winningest coach in NFL history with 347.
“It really captured the intensity in coach’s eyes,” said Tom Garfinkel, president and CEO of the Dolphins. “Those of you who know coach, there is intensity in his eyes. When you stand back and look at it, it’s incredible how a little piece of plaster this big can capture that fire in somebody’s soul.”
For ages, Don Shula was known for having a granite jaw. Now and forevermore, he’ll have a concrete jaw, chiseled into the wall by Portuguese artist Alexandre Farto, who is known as Vhils.
“It’s extraordinary how an artist can take a white wall of concrete and with a small jackhammer carve out a likeness like that,” David Shula said.
Don Shula hasn’t yet seen it, but Dan Marino got a sneak preview this week.
“He said, ‘It looks like coach has a stern look, like I saw a lot as a player,’ ” David said of Marino. “And I see that, too, but also I think if you look at it, you can see the start of a smile, which is also Dad.
“He’ll be so honored to, 1) be memorialized in the house that his team plays, and in concrete, as part of The ’72 Club. It’s all so fitting.”
David joked he could identify with the “intense stare” depicted in the mural, “which I was on the wrong side of a number of times in my lifetime, professionally and as a kid growing up.”
David also announced that five Shula Burger locations will serve fans on the 100, 200 and 300 levels at Hard Rock Stadium.
“It’s one of those things you kind of hit your head and go, ‘Why wasn’t this done before, right?’ ” David Shula said.