Sarasota, Florida – June 6, 2009 – By Dr. John F Murray – Once upon a time there was an NFL quarterback who played for the Miami Dolphins. Many do not remember his name or his face, which is odd given his enormous accomplishments, but I will never forget. All that quarterback did was lead his team to victory in 71% of the games in the perfect 17-0 season! Imagine … the most influential quarterback on the greatest team in football history is largely forgotten. Well, I met him Earl Morrall today at the Hyatt Sarasota, and I don’t want anyone to forget him.
When Bob Griese broke his ankle in the fifth game against the San Diego Chargers in 1972, I was an 11-year-old fan sitting in the Orange Bowl stands, watching Deacon Jones’ helmet smash into Griese’s leg with my binoculars. I was devastated. My boyhood team lost their leader. How could an aging veteran with a crew cut win? He had backed up Johnny Unitas in Baltimore but how could the team win without Griese, I wondered? Now I think that since that season was so incredibly rare, they probably never would have never made it to 17-0 without the confident guidance of the experienced and calm veteran, Earl Morrall.
People forget his name because the young hotshot Griese took over again in the championship game in Pittsburgh, and then won the Super Bowl as if he had never been out. But don’t forget Earl Morrall, or you ignore history. Like the no name defense that now belongs in the Hall of Fame, Morrall was just an unassuming player who found a way to win.
Over the years I wondered what had become of the aging quarterback who contributed so much to Don Shula‘s perfect masterpiece. I reflected that he must be 90 years old now because he was so old then! Late 30s can seem like 50s to a kid. This kid, now 47 and walking to retrieve his car in the Hyatt parking lot, got a memorable surprise when Earl Morrall suddenly appeared. It was a spirited chat with a childhood sports idol. He is 75 now, but still looks as calm and composed as he did those days handing off to Csonka, throwing a post to Mandich or Warfield, or running for a touchdown that time when it seemed like it took forever! I enjoyed picking Morrall’s brain for tips that I can share with my clients, and especially those who play quarterback.
Morrall is at the Hyatt with a number of other athletes representing Champs during a fund raiser called Celebrity Sports Night. Others here this weekend include Calvin Murphy, Mia Hamm, Dominique Wilkins, Devin Hester, Luke McCown, Andre Berto, Milt May, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Otis Birdsong, Sam Jones, Wade Boggs, Michael Ray Richardson, Artis Gilmore, and Mario Chalmers.
So what words of wisdom did Morrall have to share about success and leadership learned in playing on the greatest team ever? There was a lot, but here are a few quickies: (1) communicate well with everyone around you and make sure you are all on the same page; (2) the difference between “goodâ€? and “greatâ€? is often just to do a little bit more; (3) sacrifice and keep your focus on the team rather than yourself; (4) work hard; and (5) do the right thing. He also talked about how different the game was back in the 50s, 60s and 70s, and how there wasn’t nearly the money in sports as today. It wasn’t until the end of his career that he really started making money, he said.
Those who know this sports psychologist know that the 1972 Miami Dolphins helped inspire an 11-year-old kid to want a career in sports some day. It worked and I owe a lot to Earl Morrall even though I only now met him 36 years after he did his job, taking over for a broken captain and driving toward touchdowns and immortality.
The “72â€? team will still be talked about 100 years from now. Miami Dolphins fans everywhere should never forget the quarterback who actually contributed the most to that team. He led the greatest team ever to 71% of their victories. He deserves a high five and he got one from me today, even if 36 years late. Long live the man, the myth, and Earl Morrall’s crew cut!