Handwritten hero: How Don Shula inspired a young John Kucko

Kucko's Camera

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) —When we were kids, there were figures in our lives, other than family, that we may have looked up to, or even idolized. They helped shape our dreams and ambitions.

For me, that person was NFL Hall of Fame coach Don Shula.

MORE | Dolphins legend Don Shula dies at 90

I wrote to him when I was 12-years-old. He replied with a care package of stickers, photos, and Miami Dolphins game programs. And so began a correspondence that lasted through my teen years into college.

It got to the point where Shula would invite us to attend their closed practices the day before a game in Orchard Park or at Shea Stadium in New York before the Dolphins played the Bills or the Jets.

He was all class. He didn’t need to give me the time of day, but he did, and it opened my eyes at a tender, formative age to the NFL and sports in general, like I had never imagined.

It played a big role in my becoming a sportscaster for 30 years, before opting to chase trains, waterfalls, and sunsets.

Don Shula died Monday morning at his home. He was 90 years old, a Hall of Fame coach, the winningest coach in NFL history, and one of the classiest, kindest souls sports ever knew.

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