Favoring a select few important inner-circle friends and saying something he doesn't mean have never been characteristics of Earl Morrall, a man of strong beliefs who won't betray the truth. So what is he doing in politics?
The new mayor of Davie, Fla., (population 47,217) has taken quarterbacking to a higher level. Now when he calls plays they better work. There's no way to punt out of trouble.
Morrall heads the fifth largest municipality, 44 square miles, in all of Florida. Davie isn't exactly Zona any more, which is what it was originally known after settlers arrived from the Panama Canal Zone almost a century ago. It's in Broward County, southwest of Fort Lauderdale, has 400 employees on the payroll, maintains fire and police departments and stages an annual downtown rodeo that continues to give the community a western flavor.
Mayor Morrall got to his present position of authority after the town council, numbering five members, conferred him the honor. It's likely Earl voted for himself since he's a member of the same council, elected as its only Republican in 1989.
"He beat me in the vote three years ago to get a seat on the council," says Art Lazear. "I was endorsed by the newspapers and was a known quantity since I had experience and a good record. But Morrall's name recognition was more important. You don't play for the Miami Dolphins and take them to Super Bowls and remain a stranger. Earl can get along with anyone. He's quite intelligent and is a particularly nice guy."
Morrall has lived in Davie since he was a Dolphin. He bought a golf course, Arrowhead Country Club, in 1983, and stages an annual Earl Morrall Celebrity Tournament that draws leading names from sports and assists, financially, the Youth For Christ movement.
Hey, Earl, any correlation between football and politics?
"Yes. In both positions, the people involved are looking for you to make all the right moves," he answers. "It's an interesting responsibility. Everyone wants decisions made in their favor. So what do you do? You try to decide how a decision will benefit the majority of the citizens, just like what you believe is right for the team, and let that be the motive that influences you."
The former mayor of Davie, one Joan Kovac, is a Morrall booster. "I think he will do well," she says. "There are a lot of ceremonial festivities he has to attend and he handles the public with courtesy and confidence. He has an easy-to-like manner that gains him instant respect and popularity. The middle-aged ladies are elated to see him come in to a meeting or when he attends one of our civic functions."
Morrall's engaging personality has always been a welcome calling card, the same as players enjoyed being in a huddle with him during the 21 years he was a NFL quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Detroit Lions, New York Giants, Baltimore Colts and Dolphins. He played until he was 43 and didn't enter politics until age 55. Maybe there's still time to be president.
From a sports aspect, Morrall would like to convince the Dolphins' management to move the team's training camp from St. Thomas University to Davie. That he's one of their ex-players should count for something.
"I would expect them to decide on a convenient location that would be in the best interest of the players, coaches and management," he said. "Since so many of the players live in the Davie area, I think we present a strong case for coming here."
But being mayor is far from fun and games. There are issues to be dealt with. And, in virtually all of Florida, water quality and quantity are important to the citizenry. Davie also would like to attract more industry, while protecting its open space. In this regard, half the town is zoned for one housing unit per acre and 60 percent of Davie is still undeveloped.
"There are still a lot of ranches and farms in the area," explains Mayor Morrall, "which is why there's so much interest in continuing to maintain a western image. Education is a leading ++ priority. We have Nova Law University and Florida Atlantic University is nearby, plus community colleges and, hopefully, more higher places of learning still to come to Davie."
Earl Morrall has always been a big-league individual with small-town leanings, which speaks well for his upbringing in Muskegon, Mich., where he served newspapers after school and would drive out to the ballpark, lean his bicycle against the rightfield fence, stand on the seat and look in over the fence at the hometown team in action.
It's doubtful, from the record, that Davie will ever have to initiate impeachment proceedings against the present mayor.