Don Shula, 86, eager to attend son Mike's first Super Bowl

It has been 31 years since a Shula last coached in the Super Bowl. That streak will end next weekend.

Hall of Famer Don Shula, who last coached the Miami Dolphins in a Super Bowl on Jan. 20, 1985, is excited to watch his youngest son, Mike, coordinate the dangerous offense of the Carolina Panthers against the Denver Broncos at Super Bowl 50.

"I'm just so proud of Mike and the great job that he's done," Shula, 86, said Thursday in a telephone interview with ESPN.com. "It's such a great experience, coaching in a Super Bowl. I had the good fortune to coach in several of them, the perfect season and back-to-back Super Bowls. So those are all great memories. Mike's got a lot ahead of him."

Don Shula coached in six Super Bowls, five with Miami and one with the Baltimore Colts. His Dolphins, including the undefeated team of 1972, won in consecutive seasons. His oldest son, David, was on Shula's coaching staffs for Super Bowls XVII and XIX.

It's fitting that the Shula family is in the spotlight on the Super Bowl's golden anniversary. There is plenty of symmetry for Don and Mike.

Mike Shula, 50, will make his first Super Bowl appearance at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, home of the San Francisco 49ers -- just 14 miles from Palo Alto, where Don Shula coached in his final Super Bowl. The team that defeated the Dolphins in that game was -- you guessed it -- the 49ers.

Don Shula will make the cross-country trip from South Florida for the Feb. 7 game. He usually makes the annual trip to the Super Bowl to present the Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year award, but Mike's role in the title game makes it even more special for the family.

"I just want to be there. It's such an important thing in Mike's life, and he's worked hard to have that opportunity," Shula said. "To be able to show support and be there I think is important for me."

Shula said he communicates with his son "pretty much every week" about the Panthers' games. Rest assured, the pair will go over this matchup between Carolina's versatile offense, which led the NFL in scoring at 31.3 points per game, and Denver's top-rated defense, which allowed just 283.1 yards per game. This strength-versus-strength battle will go a long way toward determining the outcome of the Super Bowl.

What advice will Shula pass along to his son?

"Every play counts. Every decision he's got to make is going to be an important decision," Shula said. "But it's pretty much the same as going through the season to put yourself in position to be in the Super Bowl and try to win the big game."