Missing Don Shula

Written by Posted On Friday, 20 May 2022 00:00

Don Shula was arguably the greatest head coach in NFL history. He was also one of my very closest friends for many decades.


Recently I was reminded of a conversation that took place between former Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese during one of their monthly lunches where they would get together, eat, tell bad jokes, reminisce, and watch the horses at Gulfstream Park.

During this lunch, they started talking about a play in their first Super Bowl together, a loss against Dallas, where Griese was under such defensive pressure he ran backward to elude it. And backward. Something Coach Shula was wont to refer to as ‘minus-29 yards.

And this is where I come into the conversation. As it was recounted to me, Griese pulled out a letter from me dated August 17, 2004. I officiated that game and also did the coin toss. I confirmed that Griese was chased by three Cowboys on that play while Shula always insisted that it was just one.

Famously, my friend poked fun at me by saying “You know Tunney was voted the second-best of 200-and-something officials, right? All the others tied for first.”

He was my friend and colleague for over 30 years. I miss him every single day.

How will you honor the people who left such an impact on your life and those of others?

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Dr. Jim Tunney

Jim Tunney had an exemplary career in sports. A former high school coach, teacher, principal and district superintendent, he had a 40-year career in officiating football and basketball.

Thirty-one of those years he was an NFL Referee working a record twenty-nine post-season games including four Super Bowls, ten NFC/AFC Championship games, six Pro Bowls and twenty-five Monday Night Games.

He officiated some of the most memorable games in NFL history. His book Impartial Judgment: “The Dean of NFL Referees” Calls Pro Football As He Sees It, chronicles his NFL career.

As a Professional Speaker, he is Past President of The National Speakers Association and a Charter Member of its most prestigious group – The CPAE Speakers Hall of Fame. Jim holds every professional designation of the NSA, including the Oscar of Professional Speaking – The Cavett. NSA named him Philanthropist of the Year in 2007.

Dr. Tunney (a doctorate in Education from the University of Southern California) continues to serve his community as  Trustee Emeritus of both Monterey Peninsula College and York School; where he once served as Headmaster. In 1993, he founded the Jim Tunney Youth Foundation to support local community programs that develop leadership, work skills, wellness and self-esteem in youth. He and his wife Linda live in Pebble Beach, California. They have six children and sixteen grandchildren.

As an author he has written and/or co-authored thirteen books: Impartial Judgment, Chicken Soup for the Sports Fan’s Soul, Speaking Secrets of the Masters, You Can Do It!, Super Bowl Sunday, Insights into Excellence, Lessons in Leadership, Build a Better You and his most recent book, It’s the Will, Not the Skill.

If you are looking for a keynote speaker who educates, motivates and entertains with a lifetime of stories about leadership, team building and sports 831-595-3258.


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