May 5 (UPI) -- Hall of Fame quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Dan Marino lauded Don Shula for his ability to adapt as a football coach and for being a "father figure," after the Miami Dolphins legend died Monday.
Shula -- who holds the NFL record for the most wins as a coach -- led the Dolphins for 26 seasons. He teamed up with Marino from 1983 through 1995. Marino posted a 116-67 record as a starter while coached by Shula. He completed 59.9 percent of his throws for an average of 3,757 yards, 27.1 touchdowns and 15.4 interceptions per season under Shula.
"He was a guy that understood, let your players play the game," Marino said Monday.
Shula coached the Dolphins for 13 years before Marino's arrival. His pre-Marino run included two Super Bowl titles and four AFC championships. Shula's 1972 Dolphins went 14-0 in the regular season before they won the Super Bowl and remain the only perfect team in NFL history.
Marino, 58, called Shula the "greatest coach ever" during his Pro Football Hall of Fame speech in 2005.
"Coach, other than my father, you're the most significant influence on my football career," Marino said in the speech. "You pushed me and demanded my best. Coach, you were always a true professional and I want to thank you for the example that you set for me on the field, but also in the community.
"We didn't win a Super Bowl together and that's something I will always regret not knowing what that feels like. But you and I have won more games together than any quarterback and coach in the history -- the culmination -- the history of the NFL. That's something I'm very proud of."
Manning said he recently visited with Shula when he filmed an episode for the NFL's 100th anniversary on the Peyton's Place TV show. He also had lunch with several members of the 1972 Dolphins. Manning said it was "special to witness" the love and respect the players have for Shula.
"It wasn't just those players," Manning said. "I used to hear Dan Marino talk about Coach Shula all of the time and what a father figure he was for him as well along with his own dad. Drafting Dan in 1983 and just being a mentor and giving him the freedom to call his own plays and to play quarterback the way Dan Marino could.
"Coach Shula had a big impact on him. It was just an honor to witness that and to hear players talk about their coach in that way. I think that's the ultimate compliment to any coach."
Shula was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997. The four-time Coach of the Year is survived by his wife, Mary Anne, daughters Donna, Sharon and Anne, sons Dave and Mike, and 16 grandchildren. Dave had a short career as an NFL wide receiver before he spent five seasons as coach of the Cincinnati Bengals. He also served as a wide receivers coach and quarterbacks coach for the Dolphins from 1982 through 1988.
Mike Shula is in his first season as a quarterbacks coach for the Denver Broncos. He has also worked for the New York Giants, Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dolphins. Mike Shula was the head coach at Alabama from 2003 through 2006. He was a quarterbacks coach for the Dolphins in 2010.
Don Shula died at 90 years old Monday morning in Miami Beach, Fla. His cause of death was not disclosed.
"The Shula family thanks all those who have shared their sorrow over the passing of our coach -- a beloved husband, father, grandfather and friend," the Shula family said. "He was an inspiration to us all for his faith, love of family and community. He is remembered as a great leader who shaped many lives by his example.
"He left us still undefeated!"