The man who won more games than any coach in NFL history (347) once described himself as "subtle as a punch in the face."
Don Shula's formidable lantern jaw was merely the natural extension of this concept. When I began to put the final touches on his bronze destined for Canton, right there on the coach's spacious Florida porch, Shula's second wife, Mary Ann, handed me some pictures to look at. She wanted me to make sure my eyes had the kind of look in them that she knew so well. And then she walked over and took the bust's chin, that famous jaw, in her hand.
"Got to get this thing right, too," she said, laughing.
Which only made me more self-conscious about accurately capturing it.
"Everyone has a chin. This one just happens to have a famous coach behind it.
Fortunately, Shula was a splendid host; there was none of the intimidating sideline presence that defined his career. He had just gotten back from a month-long cruise to Egypt and chatted with the artist about his days as a player. People forget that he was a pretty fair cornerback, playing for the Colts, Redskins and Browns and intercepting 21 passes in seven seasons.
But because Shula made a greater mark as a coach — he won two Super Bowls, one of them capping the 1972 Dolphins' perfect 17-0 season — the Hall of Fame wanted him portrayed in his coaching prime, the 1980s.
Afterward, I was treated to a free meal at Shula's Steakhouse — yes, I had steak — and spent the night wondering if I had gotten that jaw right.
Fortunately, the critics say the answer is yes.
Everybody was happy with it. It's in mid-jut.