The 1972 Miami Dolphins are the only team in NFL history to go undefeated in the regular season as well as the postseason. Each member of that team is immensely and understandably proud of that fact. So cherished is this distinction that players from the team are reputed to share a champagne toast each season when the final undefeated team loses its first game of the year.
With the New England Patriots making a bid for a perfect season at Super Bowl XLII in February 2008, the Dolphins were as much a part of the story as the New York Giants.
"What I learned today is how tough it is to go undefeated," legendary coach Don Shula said after the Giants upset the Patriots. "That's why I'm even more proud of our '72 team than I've ever been. It shows it's a tremendous accomplishment. It hadn't been done before we went undefeated and it hasn't been done since."
Considering the Dolphins' history of being so protective of their status, it might come as a surprise that Shula -- the winningest coach in NFL history and skipper of those '72 Dolphins -- was elated at the undefeated starts to the season by the Buffalo Bill and the Detroit Lions. But when HuffPost Sports caught up with him shortly after the Bills and Cowboys staged stirring comebacks in Week 3, the 81-year-old was downright ebullient for his friends in Buffalo and for the franchise in Detroit that gave him his first job as a coach. Don't tell Mercury Morris.
Coach Shula was also kind enough to chat with HuffPost Sports about what enabled his '72 squad to achieve such unparrelled success as well as some ways in which the game has changed since he played cornerback during the 1950s. Our conversation with Shula took place while he was in New York to receive the 2011 Buoniconti Fund Award during the 26th Annual Great Sports Legends Dinner for The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis at the Waldorf-Astoria. The charity was founded by NFL Hall of Famer Nick Buoniconti, a key member of Shula's perfect squad, after his son Marc sustained a spinal cord injury during a college football game in 1985. Over the ensuing years, the Buonicoti Fund has supported ground-breaking research on spinal cord injuries. With Shula among the main attractions, the fundraiser on Sept. 26 raised more than $10 million to continue the push for a treatment that will allow Marc and so many others to one day walk again.
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