Forty-one years later, the 1972 Miami Dolphins stood before a packed East Room in the White House as the announcement came, “Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States accompanied by Coach Shula.”
With that, President Obama walked into the room alongside Don Shula, now 83, in his electronic scooter and the official visit of the undefeated team began.
“I know some people are asking why we’re doing this after all these years,’’ Obama said. “My answer is simple: I want to be the young guy up here for once.”
The President reviewed their undefeated accomplishment, recognizing key figures like Shula and back-up quarterback Earl Morrall, who took over when Bob Griese broke his leg that season. He also corrected himself for once calling the 1985 Chicago Bears the greatest team ever.
“Who beat them?” Shula said to the President of his ’85 Dolphins that gave the Bears their only defeat.
The Dolphins gave the President a signed 1972 jersey.
“Put it somewhere in your office and think of the whupping we put on them,” Shula said, laughing.
They came from afar for the visit. Larry Csonka covered the most distance as he came from his home 50 miles north of Anchorage, Alaska, where he, “meets moose when taking out the garbage.”
They made plans for their meeting. Larry Little had the Hall of Fame Dolphins sign a hat to give President Obama. Mercury Morris brought a “Perfectville” jersey for him.
“You’re not going to speak, are you Merc?” Don Shula asked him as they waited for the team bus to take them to the White House. “
“Aw, coach,’’ Morris said.
They laughed. They hugged. Such moments were what this trip was about.
“This is the last goal of mine in life,’’ Little said of the visit.
“My sixth Super Bowl,’’ Marv Fleming said, who played in three with the Dophins and two with the Packers.
Howard Twilley said he’d met a president before. Ronald Reagan introduced him at a convention in Twilley’s native Oklahoma as, “Harold Twilley.”
“This is a fun day, regardless of anyone’s politics,’’ he said.
Their season is in the distant mirror. In many ways that made this trip all the more special. Shula, who once put this team through four-a-day practices, is 83 now and moves in an electric cart.
During one lull in the silence, as Shula looked about at his old players, he said, “Who’d have thought?’’
Forty-one years later, the Perfect Team rode again.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun