DAVIE, Fla. -- Former Miami Dolphins quarterback Earl Morrall was remembered by Hall of Fame coach Don Shula and a packed church of family and friends during a celebration mass on Tuesday.
The memorial was held at St. David's Catholic Church in the town where Morrall once presided as mayor, near where the Dolphins train. He died April 25 on the 42nd anniversary of the day he was signed to back up Hall of Famer Bob Griese.
Fellow Dolphins Hall of Famers Dan Marino, Larry Little, Nick Buoniconti and Dwight Stephenson, along with several other former Miami players, joined Griese and Shula at the service. Some of Morrall's teammates from the Baltimore Colts, including offensive lineman Dan Sullivan, also attended. Sullivan joined Shula and Morrall's two sons, Matt and Mitch, in reflecting on the QB.
"We go back a long way and Earl's been a very, very important part of my life," said Shula, who has the most career wins of any NFL coach. "Any success that I've had he's been a part of. I met him in Detroit when I was an assistant there and then when I had the opportunity to bring him to Miami I didn't hesitate, although (late Dolphins owner) Joe Robbie wasn't quite sure he could come up with the money."
Before the service began, a video tribute put together by Mitch Morrall played on a screen above the pulpit and two screens on either side. It had a mixture of home movies and photos showing Morrall playing with his children and grandchildren and NFL Films highlights from his time with the Colts and the Dolphins. There were two large photos of Morrall on the dais.
After a little more than an hour of hymns and prayers read by family members, Shula was the final speaker. Even though the 84-year-old Shula was confined to a motorized cart, he was sharp as ever in sharing some of his favorite stories about one of his favorite quarterbacks.
Shula recalled the tough decision he had to make before Super Bowl VII when he decided to start Griese after Morrall had won 11 consecutive games following Griese's leg injury in the fifth game. Morrall's response, Shula said, summed up the type of honorable leader he was. He told his coach he disagreed with the move but accepted the decision and promised to be ready if needed for the final game of Miami's perfect 1972 season
"I was riding down here from Jupiter and the spirit of Earl 'The Pearl' Morrall was riding shotgun," Griese said. "He was haunting the radio and I looked over the spirit of Earl was tapping his foot. . Earl always had a smile on his face. He knew everybody's name and was the most liked guy in the locker room. What he did on the field will never be forgotten. There would have never been an undefeated season without Earl Morrall."
There was a reception held at Sun Life Stadium after the service.