The new receivers coach for the Miami Dolphins would like to emphasize right from the start that he is definitely not the man responsible for his team's recent offensive proficiency, for the five touchdown passes thrown by quarterback David Woodley and the 488 yards passing offense of the last two weeks.
No, says the receivers coach, a youngster named David Shula whose old man coaches the whole team, "no way I'm gonna take credit for what's going on with the offense or Woodley. He's just working real hard, and things are starting to come together. He's more sure of himself, throwing with a nice touch on his shorter passes. I have nothing to do with that."
No, David Shula would like to stay mostly in the background these days, working in the dark, breaking down game films and coming out in the Florida sunshine to help drill Miami receivers during daily practice sessions.
Still, it's tough to ignore this young man, at 23 the youngest assistant coach in the National Football League. After all, his father is considered by many to be the best in his profession; now the son is taking the first steps toward a similar goal.
It all happened less than a month ago. David Shula was at home on Christmas break from his studies at the University of Baltimore Law School, where he had enrolled last fall after failing to make the Baltimore Colts as a wide receiver.
When Wally English, the Dolphins receivers and quarterback coach, was named head coach at Tulane, Don Shula let him out of his contract and asked his son David if he'd fill in until he had to go back to school.
David Shula jumped at the opportunity. And when his father asked him last week if he'd like to finish out the year and come back next season, David hardly hesitated, taking an open-ended leave of absence from school.
"I know David's young," Shula told the Miami Herald last week, "but he's been around me a long time. He has a good idea of our system, and an even better idea of me."
David Shula also knew it was a good idea to maintain a low profile. The Dolphins' veteran receivers--Duriel Harris, Nat Moore and Jimmy Cefalo--are all older than their coach. "I'm not going to teach those guys anything," David Shula said. "They know that and I know that. So far we've had no problems, and I've really enjoyed working with our younger receivers.
"At first, I think they were a little hesitant about coming to me and asking me about running routes, things like that. But now, I think they have some confidence in my knowledge."
From the time he was 13 to when he entered Dartmouth five years later, David Shula was on the sidelines near his father, helping chart plays for the offensive and defensive coaches. And he was talented enough as a player to make the Colts roster last year.
He thought he would be back in 1982 and says he never worked harder in his life than to prepare for Frank Kush's training camp. "I really dedicated myself to play this year, and I was deeply disappointed not to make it. I'm not bitter about it. They just felt I wasn't doing the job."
Young Shula says he thought about trying out for the new United States Football League. But he recently got married and he says, "I'm not sure I'd want to subject my wife to that kind of life, changing cities all the time. And I didn't want that risk of injury hanging over our heads.
"At this point, I've got playing out of my head. My dad gave me an opportunity to see if this was something I want to do. It's something I've still got to decide.
"How do I get along with the head coach? The only people who ever bring it up are the media. I understand him and he understands me. He doesn't play favorites, and I wouldn't want him too. If I screw up, I hear about it. Oh yeah, I definitely hear about it."