Bear Bryant and Don Shula are arguably the two greatest coaches in American football history. Playing for either would have been a privilege.
Well, Tony Nathan played for both.
The 58-year-old Birmingham native won a national title under Bryant and played in two Super Bowls under Shula.
Those two legends, as one might assume, had a great deal of similarities.
“They believed in hard work,” Nathan said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “They believed (that) the way you worked during the week was (how you were) going to perform on game day. Coach Bryant was a big believer in family. Coach Shula was the same. His philosophy was you give it all you can, how you can, because you don’t know when you’re going to get a chance to do it again. Tomorrow’s not promised to any of us.”
Playing for Bryant prepared Nathan for playing for Shula – and in the NFL in general.
“Well, we felt pretty close to the pro level (at Alabama),” Nathan said. “Very close. But making that adjustment to the pros, I just wanted to get my foot in the door and I knew basically where I came from, there was other guys on the team that was from there and I got a chance to play with them. And so, it was like he knew that we was taught the right way and we knew how to go out and do what we had to do while we had the opportunity to do it.”
Nathan, a third-round draft pick in 1979, was the Dolphins’ starting running back in Super Bowl XVII and Super Bowl XIX and had countless big games in his nine years in Miami. Unfortunately for Nathan, the Dolphins lost both Super Bowls – 27-17 to Washington and 38-16 to San Francisco. Miami actually led the 49ers 10-7 after the first quarter but were outscored 31-6 the rest of the way.
“Well, the first one was a disappointment,” Nathan said. “When we got there the second time, I had bigger expectations because you had been there before. You was hoping you could get out of there with a .500 (record), but unfortunately i wasn’t able to walk away with either one. But a lot of people can’t say they played in one that played in the league. So I feel good about the accomplishment we had that we got to two.”