Don Shula was born in January, fitting given all his success in that month. He won two Super Bowls and coached in six overall, all before the big game was played in February. Shula turned 90 earlier this year, an occasion he celebrated with loved ones who threw him a surprise party.
"He was the winningest coach in professional football, but he brought a great integrity to the game," Csonka said on NFL Network. "Winning was important to him, but not at all costs. He had to win within the rules or it didn't count, in his mind. That's the way we approached the game. Now that did not stunt him from being one of the most driven people I've ever been around. That's why it's so hard to believe this. I was just with him, just the last Super Bowl, and Don was so very much alive and so dominant, whether you're in a meeting or in a gathering with him present, he's such a dominant figure, that you never think about him passing."
Csonka said the Dolphins learned how intense that drive was after what had been the franchise's best season. Shula arrived in Miami in 1970 and experienced a seven-win turnaround in Year 1. The following season they reached the Super Bowl. But a 24-3 loss to the Cowboys hardly sufficed for the man Csonka calls "Mr. Football."
"Frankly, it was hell to play for Don Shula," Csonka said. "... He came back into that locker room after that game and he said, I want you to remember how you feel right here, because this is never going to happen to us again. We're going to rededicate ourselves the next season. We're going to go one game at a time with every intent of winning every game. That of course was the '72 season where we went undefeated and it was hell to go through that. He was a driven man. No item was too small to overlook on the field. He was obsessed with it.
"There's one reason there was one undefeated in the whole history of the 100 years of the NFL, and that reason was Don Shula."
Shula always wore the ring from Miami's perfect season, with Csonka dubbing it the "pinnacle" of his 347-win career. It's one that included four AP Coach of the Year nods, a spot on the NFL's 100th Anniversary team and just two losing campaigns over 33 seasons.
All the winning and how he won created a legacy that will last forever.
"I don't know where old football players and old football coaches go," Csonka said. "But wherever they go, wherever they call heaven, right now there's a lot of growling and snorting and cussing going on because he just got there."