ATLANTA — The forearms are still formidable.
That head of steel-colored hair still flourishes. The famous jutting jaw has softened a bit in its 80th year, but the laugh fills this well-appointed VIP room. Its owner still seems larger in life than any of the champions whose photographs surround him, including Muhammad Ali, Jack Nicklaus and Joe DiMaggio.
Last week, Don Shula opened another in his burgeoning chain of restaurants, Shula’s 347 Grill, this one in the tony Buckhead section of this vibrant Southern city. The name references his NFL-record victory total. But this time of year, when (or if) there is a team fortunate enough to be undefeated, 17-0 might be a more appropriate handle.
“Every year, we get resurrected when people start talking about having an undefeated season,” Shula said, laughing, naturally. “They always go back and talk about the 1972 Dolphins.”
Seven teams in NFL history have started 13-0, but Shula’s Dolphins are the only ones to finish unbeaten. It’s been 37 seasons since they ran the table, but if the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts keep winning — consider this the first Mercury Morris warning — those old Fish could be the media stars of Super Bowl XLIV in Miami.